Captains in the making...
October 14, 2016
Captains in the making: Creating Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Leaders of Tomorrow
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” –John C. Maxwell
I firmly believe that our legacies as college student-athletes begin when we read the first few words of our college acceptance letters. Every single student-athlete has a different legacy, and every single intercollegiate athletic program is set on molding the student-athletes into the leaders of their programs as they get older, into leaders in their workplaces and into leaders of the community.
Every year, among thousands of college student-athletes, there is a special subpopulation, and that’s the deaf and hard-of-hearing athlete. The number of the student-athletes in that subpopulation who climb the ranks and become outstanding leaders and/or captains of the team is low. There are a few steps that I took that really helped me become a part of that special fraternity.
Act like you’ve been there before.
College student-athletes are members of their respective sports programs because they can compete. A lot of them forget that it’s the same sport that they’ve been excelling at their entire lives. Student-athletes can’t forget that the game isn’t any different. You’ll play against some of the most talented athletes in the country. You may be playing in a new environment, but the game isn’t any different. So technically speaking, you’re already been there. Act like it.
Consistency is key.
The greatest difference in a player’s development lies in how consistent they can be. Academics, attendance, performance, routine, diet, sleep, social life, family life, relationships, and everything that falls under the college experience will have its own consistency. For example, you can post consistent grades, attend classes regularly, play well daily, maintain a steady routine, eat healthy, get enough sleep daily, spend some time with friends, remain in contact with your family, maintain your relationships, and so forth. If you spend more time trying to get everything balanced, you’ve spent more time and energy on one part, then the other will suffer. This will make your life tough. If you are able to achieve consistency in each aspect of the college experience, you’ll find yourself ahead of the pack.
Leadership opportunities happen every day.
Every single day, life will give you an opportunity to become a leader. I took this aspect very seriously in college, where I would look at my fall season, off-season workouts, games and team meetings as an opportunity to become a leader. This could mean motivating a teammate to add five more pounds on the bar, giving a pat on the back after a tough drill, showing up early to everything, rallying the troops when the team is trailing the opponent, or sharing your thoughts during a meeting. Your language during group texts, daily conversations and behavior will impact the team chemistry tremendously.
Express your goals for the team. Loudly. Then do what you want the team to do.
Leadership boils down to a very simple concept. Leadership creates a vision for a group of people to work towards. In this case, a vision for the team to work together towards. For many of the teams in the country, it’s the conference championship, and then a national championship. This can become redundant to some, but what leaders do is to create a mini-vision that we can attain in a day, a week, or a month. For example, one can text “Let’s focus on our passing and we’ll get the win today!” in the group chat. If you’re the one who sent that text, you better do what you said during the game. Your teammates will immediately elevate their games and follow suit.
Can’t please them all.
As you become a veteran leader of your team, you will see a lot of things, a lot of different personalities and different views from your own team. Not everyone will agree with what you do, say or think. There will be some people who don’t like you. You can’t get them all to like you, or personally agree with you. But what you can do is to create a goal that the whole team can agree on. Teammates must be able to respect each other and find ways to work together towards a goal set by the leaders.
Don’t forget, every morning you wake up, you have an opportunity to create your legacy as a student-athlete. You have an opportunity to do what many people would love to have. So, just do what you do best, be consistent in what you do, take advantage of every possible opportunity, help show the way for your teammates and keep hustling with your eyes (and the team’s) on the prize. If you can do all of the above, you’ll do big things.