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Leadership in sports – teens have it tough!

I loved playing rugby. I wasn’t known as ‘The Knock-on King’ for nothing! Eventually though my body said ‘no more’ but I wanted to stay involved, so for the last 8 years I have refereed. From county league to cup finals, university and school fixtures, I’ve observed team captains and coaches lead, motivate and inspire (or not) both on and off the pitch.
For teenage athletes, being asked to lead their team is no small feat.  They face challenges notably distinct from those encountered by their adult counterparts. The responsibilities that come with captaining are magnified as they navigate the complexities of asserting authority over their peers, being decision makers on the pitch, communicating effectively under pressure with the team, referees and coaches, setting an example of athletic performance, and often balancing academic pressures too.
Many young captains perform all those challenges with inspiring ability and good humour.  But I have also been involved in fixtures where talented players selected to lead based (perhaps) on sporting ability alone really struggle, especially when under the weight of expectation from the touchline.  And when a player’s ability is the sole criteria for leadership then the negative impact isn’t just detrimental to the team, but the individual too. Get that choice wrong and the result will damage confidence, strain relationships with peers, inhibit performance and diminish the joy of playing.
Age grade teams have limited training time, so coaching is understandably focused on tactics and skills for the next fixture.  But finding time to develop leadership skills is just as important as time spent on individual and collective skills and tactics.
Taking time early in the season to enable young athletes understanding of team dynamics, motivation, communication, and resilience, creates an environment where every team member feels valued, connected, and fosters trust and unity in the team.  It also enhances a coach’s understanding of their athletes, enabling them to select leaders who are equipped with a foundation of skills and knowledge they can use on and off the pitch.  So, when the pressure is on, not only do the individuals perform better, but the team too.
FEED Consulting is passionate about developing these crucial skills. We deliver leadership workshops and activities for sports teams, focusing on understanding the dynamics of leadership and seeding the desire develop the skills and knowledge that are foundations for future success. #leadership #sports


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