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More Than a Game: How to Use Youth Sports to Develop Strong Leaders

By TrueSport, 05/14/19, 8:00AM CDT


As a coach, you have a unique role in a young athlete’s life. With this role, you can be a driving force in developing new leaderswho will impact sport and communities. But leadership is more than simply choosing a captain of the team.

“Coaches are uniquely suited to help students take on leadership roles,” explains Daniel Gould, co-author of Youth Sport Leadership Development: Leveraging the Sports Captaincy Experience. “In education, the amount of time a coach spends with a kid is likely more than any other teacher in the school.”

Here are strategies coaches can use to help develop leaders and leadership.


Everyone is a leader

While it’s tempting to let a popularity contest determine the team captain, remember that everyone can learn leadership skills through sport and throughout the season.

“In youth leadership, people debate if we should teach all kids how to lead, or if we only teach the kids who are more likely to lead, who naturally seem to rise to the challenge,” says Gould. While one or two students often end up rising to the top—you only have one student president, one captain of the team—and it’s fine to focus on those students, make sure everyone gains insight into leadership.


Teach student-athletes how to follow

The art of being a good follower can be harder to learn, but it’s as necessary as being a good leader. “Students also need to learn to follow, to take constructive criticism,” says Gould.

“In life, everyone will likely end up acting as both a leader and a follower at some point, so it’s important to teach both.”


Give real responsibility


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About TrueSport

TrueSport® is a grassroots movement born and powered by the experience and values of USADA–the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. The TrueSport® mission is simple and bold: to change the culture of youth sport by providing powerful educational tools to equip young athletes with the resources to build the life skills and core values for lasting success on and off the field.