What does it mean to lead in sports?

I am pretty excited for football season to start. I love the excitement, the anticipation, and mostly, the food. Apparently I am not the only one counting down the days. The stories about leadership in the news have changed from political to who is going to be leading on the field this fall. No matter what the level- high school, college, professional-everyone is speculating who will be the ones that will stand out on the team. So how are these leaders being defined?

Several articles about the Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s defensive linemen Gerald McCoy define his new leadership role by showing up to practice in better shape than expected, filling a void left by another team leader, and working with teammates on fundamentals. These do not appear to by the typical leadership traits on the surface. Your size does not determine that you will be a good leader (ex: President Taft). Stepping up into a position might be a leadership quality, but simply being in that position is not. Working with teammates can definitely be leadership trait, but you’re also getting paid to be on a team. So lets look at this in context. Showing up ten pounds lighter than the coaches asked shows that he is prepared and willing to give his all. The position he is replacing belonged to a great team leader. Someone who will be missed. No one HAD to rally the troops, but he did it. Football is one of the ultimate team sports. You cannot win with one all-star, it needs to be a group of people coming together with one goal.   In a profession where people can be so fickle and pompous, working with other players on fundamentals demonstrates humility and the desire to make everyone better, not just yourself.

Look at some of the football leadership articles from this past week. What are the main leadership traits the authors are talking about?

Sorensen: A towel won’t define Cam Newton’s leadership

Jim Harbaugh: On Kaepernick’s leadership/popularity, and moving on from 2012

LeBron James is a favorite leadership model for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer: With video

Bradford knows it’s time to take leadership role

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