Every athlete has heard someone tell them to "be a leader" but how does someone know what that means exactly. What does being a leader look like? Growing up and playing sports I have learned a lot about what a leader looks like. Players on every team I've been on have turned to the person who plays the most for what to do. However, playing time doesn't equate to leadership. People tend to look to the person with the loudest voice for what to do next but, volume doesn't equate to leadership either. I've been playing sports for the majority of my life and I think, as a senior in college, I finally understand what leadership looks like in athletics.
One of the best leaders I ever had as a player was someone who didn't play very much. She was a role player off the bench but you couldn't tell that if you came to a practice. She worked as hard, if not harder, than anyone on the team. She put in the extra work after practices and was the first person someone would go to if they needed anything. She fully immersed herself in what the program stood for and she was respected by all. She wasn't the loudest on the team. She didn't have the most playing time or game experience but she was THE leader of our team. She is what others strived to be like.
She embodied other qualities of a leader that go overlooked in a lot of teams simply because they can't be tracked by a stat book. Leaders do the right thing all the time and not only when it's convenient. Leaders are responsible and look out for everyone on their team, not just those who are closest to them. I've learned that you don't always have to be likable but you must be respectable. Leaders say what they mean and mean what they say.
In my four years at Defiance College I like to think I've become a better leader and this year I finally realized that no matter what the situation, people turn to me to help guide the team as a whole. This means on and off the field. If I make an error, everyone sees how I react and they use that as an example for how they should react. If I make a poor decision off the field, my teammates are going to see that as something they can do also. Leaders get to set the standards for their team. I say "get to" because it is a privilege to lead a team. It is a privilege to take on responsibilities that others don't get. It is a privilege to represent a team by upholding the team standards in everything you do on a daily basis and it is a humbling opportunity for your teammates to look to you. The thing is, anyone can be a leader. Anyone who chooses to do the right things, look out for their team, and do everything in their power to help the team succeed can be a leader. It's not the person who plays the most, or the person who talks the loudest, but the person who is willing to do anything for the team.