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The Value in Developing Student Athlete Leaders 


“We’re All In This Together” – If you have seen the movie High School Musical then you have probably envisioned a school in where all student groups support each other. It is not as easy as Zac Efron makes it look. 

The most valuable session I have ever attended at any teacher conference was one led by the CIF Commissioner regarding sportsmanship. I went down a rabbit hole reflecting on the position our student athletes are put in, how we seem to associate elite athletes with just that one skill, how they are expected to balance academics and athletics, and we often dismiss their need for development outside of that. So, for the last 6 months I have studied the student athletes, had conversations about their needs and goals, and came up with 5 ways to grow our student athletes and school culture at the same time. 

  1. VARIETY- When choosing candidates for your leadership programs make sure that they represent a wide range of clubs, programs, and teams on your campus. If you find you are missing representation from a certain sport or club, reach out to the coach or advisor to see who you should be recruiting. It is so valuable for our athletes to have a network of support on campus outside of their teammates. 
  2. GROUPING- Be intentional about grouping students from different subgroups. They will not like it at first, but after some team building, you can create a culture of celebrating successes and skills all over your campus. There is always something to celebrate and it is so fun to celebrate together!
  3. FLEXIBILITY- Let your leaders know up front that during their season you expect them to be role models to other team members and underclassmen. In the off season they will be expected to contribute more to support the students who are in season. A culture of support and encouragement is vital in a balanced leadership program. 
  4. SUPPORT- I keep things like cough drops, band aids, safety pins, hair ties, and lotion in my classroom. Often when there is a big game the team leaders need one of these items, but they don’t. They need a moment to have someone take care of them before they take on the pressure of leading their team. No matter how talented they are they still need reassurance before the pressure of leading a team. 
  5. EXPECTATIONS- Last but not least, let the athletes know that they are LEADERS. You take the time to develop and grow them, and that needs to stay with them all over campus and in competition. Integrity first. Bad sportsmanship is not acceptable from a student leader. 

Our student athletes know what is expected of them on the field, it is our responsibility as leadership teachers to teach them what is expected of them everywhere else.

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