The phrase “Accept the Risk of Leadership” was adopted by Coach Trickey in 1988 after he read an article about responsibility and risks of putting yourself in front as a leader. He told me that he connected so deeply with the message that he felt compelled to share it at every camp he did.
That message has resonated with me ever since I attended the Trickey-Wright camp back in 1999 as a high school junior. I wanted so desperately to be a leader, and even though I was named a captain by my teammates in high school, there were some “risks” that I was unwilling to take. All of those risks simply would have involved speaking up to my teammates about making better choices in multiple facets of life.
But why didn’t I do it? Why didn’t I say anything? I didn’t want to “risk” the social criticism from my teammates. I didn’t want to “risk” being laughed at. I didn’t want to “risk” being called a “suck-up” “snitch” or any other derogatory phrase. I didn’t want to “risk” making anyone feel uncomfortable or hurt their feelings in any way. Instead I choose the “lead by example” route. While I consider my senior season a success, I feel like I failed myself and my teammates by not saying more.
Dealing with high school students every day, I can confidently say that risk of leadership for today’s teenagers is purely a social risk. No one wants to be vocal or extend themselves for fear of being criticized by their teammates. What can make matters worse is how quickly information can travel through text and social media channels. There becomes a perpetuating fear that if you say or do something different it may get around to “everyone you know” and suddenly your image will be ruined.
According to the author of the Team Captain’s Leadership Manual and student-athlete leadership expert, Jeff Janssen, there are five reasons why student-athletes don’t want to take on vocal leadership roles:
- Lack of confidence in their status and legitimacy
- They don’t understand the importance of being vocal
- It’s not in their nature
- They don’t know what to say
- It’s not a habit
But what athletes fail to understand is the risk they pose to themselves and their team by not being a leader. According to Jeff, “Personally, they are missing the chance to become the best version of themselves. They not only shortchange themselves, but the entire team as well. Their team likely won’t achieve its potential because they withheld their leadership.”
Which leads me to ask; if you don’t accept the risk of leadership and speak up, are you willing accept the risk of your team not reaching its full potential? For those of you who invest so much time and money coming to our camps to improve your skills, why would you throw it away by not saying what needs to be said so that everyone can thrive?
I’m not naive to believe that confronting a teammate, group of teammates or entire team will be easy on you. Leadership is never about doing what is easy. It is about doing what is right so that everyone can be better. While I cannot accurately predict how those people will react in the short term, in the long run, I don’t know of a great leader who regrets a decision to say what needed to be said.
If you are interested in learning more about the Team Captain’s Leadership Manual, or other leadership training resources from Jeff Janssen, please visit http://www.janssensportsleadership.com/.