Leadership in Education-Based Athletics

During our captain’s meetings this winter, we spent time discussing the concept of Individual vs. Team. We read two articles by Scott Rosberg, a 30-year teacher and coach that, I believe, has the perfect grasp on Education-Based Athletics (more on that topic later). The captain’s discussed that the word “versus” indicates an adversarial relationship and questioned whether it’s possible for a player to be their best individual, and still be a good teammate who puts the team first. It is my belief that a good leader does this constantly, selflessly. Being other-centered is one of the first requirements of being a good leader.

High school sports can be one of the greatest teaching tools that a young person experiences in their development. The leadership on those teams, from the coaches, captains and upper classmates, helps establish a student athlete's foundation of values and expectations for themselves, as well as establishing their path for helping others. Education-Based Athletics is at the core of this development. The National Federation of State High School Associations uses the following bullet points to outline desired outcomes.

• Learn sportsmanship to win humbly and graciously and to lose with dignity.
• Model integrity through playing by the rules. 
• Use teamwork in order to contribute to a greater goal in which the athlete places the team’s success or recognition before that of an individual.
• Reach out to assist teammates, which translates into helping others around them in life and contributing to the community. 
• Develop perseverance and the ability to bounce back from defeats. 
• Incorporate goal-setting learned through athletics into their approach to life. 
• Develop a solid work ethic that emphasizes preparation and effort.

Leadership in high school athletics begins with relationships. The most successful coaches have realized that relational leadership begins with a fundamental belief that people are more important than processes, strategies, and tactics. The best leaders truly care about people. On high school teams, leadership should work to establish a system of person, student, and then athlete. 

Leaders need to get to know the students that make up the team, and work to help them grow and develop off the playing surface first. This is a large task, but it is why we teach and coach. Coach Jane Albright states, “Leading by and with purposeful values is a practical and philosophical imperative because it builds the type of trust that builds loyalty that builds enduring relationships.”  By modeling the values and character that are important to them, leaders will gain the trust necessary for the team to be successful – no matter what their version of success.

Without trust, the team cannot move forward toward individual and team goals.  In his book, Trust, political scientist, Francis Fukymaya says that trust functions as a form of social glue binding people and organizations together. But that trust does not stem from authority, rather from one’s words and actions.  


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