Leadership Mindset

  • February 02, 2018


Leadership is a way of thinking. It begins in the head of each player with a desire to achieve and a willingness to take responsibility. Every member of a playing squad has a purposeful role to play and therefore a responsibility to him- or herself, the team and the coaches […].

Player leadership can emerge in differing forms:

  • An inspirational leader – a talent who inspires the team
  • A core group of players determined to succeed
  • An emotional leader – a player who can capture the feelings of the team
  • The social connector leader – a ‘mother hen’ figure
  • Pop-up leadership – a player nearest to the situation taking charge

When the layers are peeled back to analyze a great team, many of these elements will appear.

Being a Model Leader as Coach

The leadership characteristics and style of the coach create the conditions that allow player leadership to emerge. How the coach looks, what she or he says and how she or he acts send powerful messages to the players. The coach must be secure enough to allow space for player leadership to emerge and not be threatened by it. It could be said that coaches get the player-leaders they deserve!

Through intelligent use of power, authority, personality and presence, the coach is able to create a tight yet loose environment. A framework of control is established that includes a small number of non-negotiables (tight) yet enough negotiable (loose) aspects remain to allow player-leaders to shape large parts of the process. This move to increased player ownership is an important part of coaching the modern team.

The coach must always set the standard by personal behaviour, being confident and optimistic, seeing challenges not problems and focusing on what the team can do, not what they cannot do. Communication is especially important. Coaches must ask great questions and listen at least as much as they speak.

From One Goal: The Mindset of Winning Soccer Teams by Bill Beswick.

Copyright © 2016 by Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. Available to order from Human Kinetics Canada at www.HumanKinetics.com or by calling 1-800-465-7301.

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Coach Responses

What is your Leadership Style? How do you model great leadership for your athletes and teams?

Share your tips and best practices!

Roxanne Curtis – Women’s Field Lacrosse – Whitby – 30 years

“……Player ownership is critical to a growth mindset for the members of your team. I have utilised the strategy of making player’s responsible for set up and start of practices – as a lacrosse coach, we always require a bucket of lacrosse balls, the net key and nets to be moved to field – everyone has a role, if not done….practice can’t happen. I get great buy-in from my players. Captains are responsible for dynamic warm up and with guidance, they get the ball warm up going. Giving players some input into naming drills or set plays also creates buy-in and enthusiasm for practice.”

David Willie Oduro – Basketball – Toronto

“…I let the leaders of the team known to the individual. I make athletes be themselves and unique and not try to create to someone they are not. Everyone leads different. As long it is effective I give them a lot of freedom to grow with guidance. Sometimes I need to steer the wheel so they don’t go off track.”

Lisa Burton – Figure Skating – Northern Ontario – 30+ years

“…After many years of coaching – 30+, seeing the same coaches in my discipline training their athletes and watching the results. Some good but most average. I got to thinking. Why are these athletes not progressing? So I changed my outlook. Trained as if I was still in the sport, changed my eating and sleeping habits. Now that I am feeling better and have a better perspective of what it would take I have passed onto the athletes.

I am constantly learning from seminars, talking to coaches who are “There” now and what they have done. Talking to the elite athletes, watching their training and how they are improving or not with what they are doing. Coaching is a science. My leadership is to show the athletes that if they want to succeed they too have to take responsibility for their success and failures and as a team define the right equation for that athlete or team for that one moment. Either Provincials or the Olympics the training for that one moment and the importance to that athlete is the same. “LEAD BY EXAMPLE” IS MY STYLE.”

Christina W – Swimming – Hamilton

“……finding strengths and going with it. Everyone has something to offer and new ideas are welcomed and appreciated. It helps connect the team of athletes in feeling a sense of belonging when they have opportunities to express their strengths.”

Joe Benedetti – Fast-Pitch Softball – Hamilton – 30+ years

“…If we as coaches can remember that our job is to help the athletes and the teams get to where they have told us they want to go – that will help set the right climate of who actually is “driving the bus.” Surely there will be times when the coaches and athletes will take turns leading, following, or simply getting out of the way of others who are at that time leading. In the NCCP Coaching and Leading Effectively module the point is strongly made that “anyone can lead from anywhere” and we all are capable of achieving “extraordinary results” give the right conditions. It takes a confident and secure coach to truly develop a servant leadership style to help athletes become the leaders of the future”

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