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Leadership activities are a quick and easy way to identify and develop team leaders. Good team leaders build cohesiveness within your squad in athletics or business. They help draw out the greatest abilities in other team members.
Most team leaders naturally gravitate toward leading. You may discover other leaders quietly sitting on the bench. Those are the ones just waiting for a key to open the locked door to their leadership abilities. You are that key. An unspoken, but important job of a coach, mentor, or facilitator is to discover and develop these hidden leaders.
Leadership Activities to Discover the Natural Leaders on Your Team
To develop the leadership abilities in all athletes, coaches and mentors should encourage teamwork and sportsmanship. Demonstration of those two qualities in an athlete are the first indicators of a good team leader.
Planning drills to highlight individual skills
When planning drills at the beginning of any season, it is essential to concentrate on developing leaders. Share the leadership roles during drills, allowing all team members to share in leadership activities. Drills and teamwork activities allow a coach or mentor to assess individual abilities for each athlete.
Evaluating players without favoritism
Every team has stand-out players. You’ve seen them. Those are the players who have natural ability and effortlessly excel in a sport. They don’t have to work hard at it. When they step onto a field or court, the crowd is mesmerized. They are always a fan favorite.
As a coach or mentor, you might be inclined to let that natural talent take over. We tend toward allowing talented team members to sail through practice and drills with minimal effort. But you won’t be doing that player or the team any favors. It may be difficult at times, but a good coach or mentor must avoid showing favoritism.
Recognize the hidden leadership potential in shy athletes
Every team has their shy player. You’ve seen the player that is standing off to the side or in the back, seemingly wishing that no one notices them. They will sit quietly on the bench while more competitive team members fill all the slots for a practice game. As you coach, you will need to engage those shy players and draw them out.
While it is never good to force participation, a coach should ensure that no one gets left out. Interact with all players at practice and have players take turns. With most team sports, rotating positions is a good way to keep everyone involved and also evaluate players.
Developing Raw Leaders into Real Leaders
Depending on the level of play, your team leaders may have little or no experience. If you are in a youth league, part of your job will involve teaching the fundamentals of the game. Older players probably already know the basics. Training athletes to be leaders begins in those youth leagues.
The importance of self-evaluation
Sometimes, finding out about your players doesn’t involve the playing field. One of the best leadership activities to help you find potential leaders is a simple questionnaire. Develop a set of questions, starting with the obvious “Do you consider yourself a leader?” Then, using hypothetical situations and questions, and ask how they would react. This process allows you to judge their ability to reason, see cause and effect, and other areas you wish to evaluate.
Ask each player to submit their answers or solutions in writing. Their answers will give you more insight into each player. That quiet player sitting at the end of the bench might surprise you.
Some examples of questions or scenarios to include:
- 1How would you try to motivate your team after a loss?
- 2If you were team captain, how would you encourage other team members to work together for team goals?
- 3One of your team members suddenly has trouble playing as well as they used to. How would you help them figure out what was causing the problem?
- 4What is the most useful asset in a team leader?
- 5What is the worst trait a team leader can have?
- 6How do leadership activities work to develop all team members?
Teaching conflict resolution for positive outcomes
No matter how well-connected a team is on the surface, there will be disagreements. Someone will have a bad day and bring it to the court. Words will be said. Feelings will be hurt. Play will be affected. As a coach, your responsibility is to try to assist players in working through their differences.
Fortunately, we have given up the barbaric practice of putting boxing gloves on young men and letting them “punch out” their problems. To replace that, we have implemented a complex set of conflict resolution tools. These tools serve to help players understand the problem, how it affects them as a player, and how it affects the team as a whole.
Getting team members to participate in a conflict resolution plan will help build comradery. You can teach your team how to react and diffuse situations before they become explosive. Working on leadership activities in this area may not be easy, but they are essential.
Nip potential conflicts in the bud when you can. Call players aside and quietly have them discuss why they are disagreeing. If you can’t leave practice, assign a mediator to help guide the discussion, This can be a junior coach, team captain, or just a player that is not involved and will act fairly.
Setting up a conflict resolution strategy at the beginning of any season will keep your team on the playing field. Your plan should specify expected behavior models and define the conflict resolution process clearly. When players know what a coach expects of them, they are more equipped to model that behavior.
Leading by example
How you handle yourself will have a great effect on the actions your players take. They will look to you and will emulate your actions. If you respond with anger when someone does something wrong, everyone else will also respond with anger. If you respond with understanding and urge the player to do better next time, your players will follow suit.
Maintaining trust and respect from and for your team is important. Athletes need the reassurance that you are in their corner. We have all seen the coach on the sidelines explode with anger and publicly berate a player. Don’t be that coach. Be the coach that tells that same player that they will do better on the next play. Support your team, and they will return that support tenfold.
Leadership Activities and Team-Building
When the season starts, a coach wants their team to hit the field or court proudly and play well. That preparation starts at the first try-out or practice. In community sports leagues, a coach may not know any of their players before that first meeting. A coach should get to know the players and evaluate their abilities before the first game.
Likewise for the players, who also enter the first meeting not knowing any of their teammates. They are expected to perform together as a team by game time. That requires trust and respect for one another, and of course, practice. Using leadership activities during the first couple of practice sessions will help the players gain trust for one another. It will also identify players that will be leaders both in the locker room and on the field.
There are many reasons players need to trust each other. Consider baseball or softball. The second baseman needs to know that the shortstop will be on that base to gobble up a double-play toss. The pitcher has to trust that the catcher will scoop up an errant pitch that lands in the dirt. The runner rounding third has to trust the coach beckoning them to race into home plate to score.
It doesn’t matter what your sport is, there is always a need for trust. Basketball, field hockey, football, soccer, and even chess all require players to have trust in teammates and coaches. Leadership activities consisting of trust-building exercises work well to develop trust among teammates.
This game is good for building team trust. Split your team members into pairs, trying to keep the paired members near the same physical size. Pairs should line up in two rows, both facing the same way. The member in the front relaxes and falls backward, trusting their team member to catch them.
Once the players become comfortable with the exercise, they can alternate to new partners. Do use caution not to pair the seven-foot giant center with the barely five-foot-tall point guard though. Players need to be physically able to support their teammate during this exercise. There might be some drops, but that’s okay. Reassure that pair and get them to try again.
You should play this game in a controlled environment, such as a gymnasium or fenced field. You will need a few cones or other items to act as obstacles or challenges. Set up the items in random order, making at least two different courses from one end of the gym to the other.
Start by dividing into two-member teams. Each team selects one member that is blindfolded. The other team member should stand behind the blindfolded player, facing the obstacle course. At the sound of the whistle, the blindfolded player begins walking forward. His team member must act as his eyes, warning him of obstacles and giving instructions on challenges. Challenges can be a free throw or a pass to another teammate, guided by the seeing member of the team.
This exercise requires team members to work together to complete the course. The drill develops teamwork, trust, and leadership abilities. As a coach, pay attention to which players offer their teammate the most concise directions. Navigating their blindfolded mate through the course and completing the challenges is a sign of good leadership.
Building communication skills
Communication is the backbone of every team, in sports and business. To work together, team members must communicate effectively. There are a variety of leadership activities that might seem silly or pointless at first. In truth, they are instrumental in working to increase team communications.
The telephone game
We all played this when we were kids. Line your team up in a straight line, shoulder to shoulder. Starting at one end, whisper something to the first person in the line. They turn to the next person and relay the message, and so on down the line. When the whispered communication gets to the end of the line, have the last player state the message aloud. Then have the first player tell the team what the original message was.
Normally, the ending message bears no resemblance to the first message. By passing the message along, some players didn’t listen well, and the message got garbled. Starting each practice with this exercise will increase your team’s ability to communicate. By the end of the season, your players will be passing the same message all the way to the end of the line. They will become effective communicators, and it will make a difference in their game.
Call the play
Designating a team voice to call out where the play is going will aid in getting your team to work together. Having an assigned play caller helps to keep players from colliding, which decreases injury. The nature of this exercise is to practice calling out the play. The coach designates a single player (or line of players so they can swap out the role).
In basketball, this works well with a lay-up drill. As the player dribbles toward the hoop, the play caller yells out “right” or “left.” The player approaching the basket then executes either a left-handed or right-handed lay-up shot. This method is also effective for passing and shooting drills as well. The play caller calls out the name (or direction) of the player who should receive the next pass.
In baseball or softball practice, the catcher or a middle fielder can call out which outfielder should field a ball. Having a play caller allows the fielders to concentrate on the ball rather than on approaching teammates and potential collisions. Once they catch the ball, the play caller may instruct the fielder where to make the next play.
Leadership activities help coaches determine who is best suited to be designated the team voice during games. The exercise also prepares the team to listen for the play caller to give direction. Good listening habits keep the team on the same path, which hopefully leads to victory.
Turning Over the Whistle
A good coach or mentor can walk away from the action on the field or court. They know that the team will continue with the practice. When team leaders gain the trust of the team, normal routines will continue during coach absences. Although it may be difficult to turn over that whistle, it is part of being a coach.
As players grow and mature in the sport, so will their leadership abilities. If a coach has done a good job, he can leave any player “in charge” during a brief absence from the field. A team with many members capable of leading means seamless transitions from one to the other.
If you found this information on leadership activities helpful, please comment. Consistently using leadership activities with your team will help all your players become effective leaders. It will help them on and off the playing field throughout their lives.