Friday, May 16, 2014

Identify and develop leaders

This is relatively new to me, as I've only done it a couple times, and the most time I spent on it was this past hockey season... with great success :) The idea started because I had a really inexperienced hockey team. 8 of our 11 players had never played mite major hockey before (for those not familiar with hockey tiers... it basically means they kinda knew how to skate but never played team hockey before). I sat down with my assistant coach at the beginning of the season, and we put together our season plan. We knew our biggest challenge was to quickly get the inexperienced players up to speed. One of our ideas was having captains. But we also set some parameters: we both had a high bar for performance and behavior on the team, so it would follow that we would have a high bar for someone to don a 'C' or an 'A' on their jersey. They had to earn being a captain. To do so, we laid out the following for the players:
  1. You had to be a model for others to follow. In the locker room, on the ice, during practice, during games, on the bench, at any team function, etc. The bar was simple: if we used a player as a consistent example for others to model, they were eligible for captaincy.
  2. You could lose it. Either of one the coaches could rip that badge of honor off the jersey at any time, at our discretion, for any reason.
  3. This was no trophy-kid award. Our plan wasn't to give every player a chance to wear a captain letter. It truly had to be earned.
It. Worked. Wonders. We actually made two players captains, talked to the team about why, and gave the players models to follow. And follow they did. The previous season we won about half of our games. This past season, with a less experienced and less talented team, we went 27-1-3. I attribute the primary reason to our captains who led the team, set a great example, and the players that followed them. For the captains, they developed their leadership skills. One example: at one practice prior to the season, one of the to-be-captains playfully slashed the other to-be-captain (dressed in goalie gear) in the leg pad. Not a big deal, it was meant in fun between two players that had played together for three years. But it set a bad example in the respect and sportsmanship department to players who had never played with a goalie on the ice. So we talked about setting priorities between having fun and being a leader. It was the player's choice what they wanted to do. We rotated captains once two-thirds of the way into the season. And we identified alternate captains throughout the season as others showed leadership qualities. Feedback from parents was that this was a good move. They liked having their kids have role models and show that hard work pays off. I have been reticent in instituting this in my current flag football season. After a blowout loss last weekend, I am correcting that oversight this coming Sunday.

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