The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.
—Warren Bennis (Pioneer of Leadership Studies)
Finding meaningful opportunities to learn how to be a leader as a young person are often limited and haphazard at best. Leadership opportunities seem to only occur if you have a leadership mentality within your peer group or an adult (family member, teacher, coach) provides intentional leadership training.
Basically, you have to be “lucky” to receive opportunities within leadership development as a youth. Unfortunately, most K through 12 schools do not have a class called leadership…this type of class would make much more sense than many of the classes currently offered. Leadership is a skill that is universal and can successfully be put into practice in all professions. Schools that are designed to create free-thinking, creative individuals will incorporate an aspect of leadership training within their curriculum.
I direct a program called Sweet Feet in which my staff and I teach soccer and movement education classes to students in preschools and daycares. Over the course of the development of this program in the last five years, I have been able to incorporate youth soccer players aged 10 to 17 to assist me with course instruction. This has assisted me with staffing issues while creating leadership opportunities for pre-teen and teenage soccer players. We have developed a coaching mentor/mentee program that has allowed the young coaches to gain valuable perspectives and insights through close association with an experienced coach. Even better, this leadership training is happening in real coaching situations giving athletes between the ages of 10 and 17 “Coaching Experiences” and leadership knowledge they can take into future experiences within coaching, teaching, or their chosen profession.
Leadership development goals I discuss with the mentees prior to the season involve three specific focuses that are key to our Sweet Feet success and assist with becoming a quality teacher:
- Learn the names of each participant within the group.
- Select three students that are having a tough time in the class and assist them in having opportunities for fun and success.
- Talk in front of the group during each class session.
Our season is ten class sessions which gives the mentee plenty of time to work towards accomplishing these three specific focuses. Max Stanley who has been in this program over a year has shown tremendous growth as a teacher and now is able as an 8th grade student to lead portions of the class. A video of Max teaching the group can be observed by CLICKING HERE. This success did not happen overnight for Max, but through coach observation, parental support, and the experiences he has had in the Sweet Feet program he has become an improved leader. Max also wanted to share about his experiences and wrote the following about his Sweet Feet coaching experience:
While working in the Sweet Feet program as a junior coach, I met so many children and watched their touch and technique with the ball grow and grow throughout the ten lessons we worked with them. While working with the children, I felt a big sense of responsibility and leadership, making sure they were safe and having fun at the same time.
Every session, we worked with the children on a new skill such as dribbling or passing. While working on these skills, we developed a theme to go along with them and sometimes made it into a game! For instance, one day we made the theme of a prate’s ship. On the ship, the children had to rig the masts by dribbling their ball around the big cones, row the boat by rolling their sole over the ball five times, and dig for loot by dribbling their ball around the small cone twice and flipping it over. Each time we played one of these themed games, I could see the children’s touch become more precise and consistent which made me feel proud that I had helped them in their development.
While feeling a big sense of responsibility for the children, I also enjoyed my time with them. Every day that I coached, I always looked forward to seeing the children’s smiling faces when they came out of their classrooms to the field to play, practice their technique and have some fun. Additionally, every practice I learned more and more about each child, and they learned about me as well. For example, by the end of each practice, I knew more about each child’s personalities, favorite themes and his/her family.
Coaching at Sweet Feet was a fantastic experience whereby I learned so much about responsibility and leadership while enjoying and having fun with the children. I look forward to coaching again in the fall!
Leadership development…I think so. Becoming a better person…I think so. Becoming a future coach…I hope so.
Special thank you to all of the “Youth” Coaches that help out in our program including Erin, Mason, Brett, Stephen (Coach Spaghetti and Meat Balls), Jack (Coach Mac and Cheese), Blake (Coach Club Sandwich) , David (Captain Pizza), Chandler, Joseph, Abby, and Maya. Your assistance is instrumental in the success of our program as well as your future leadership abilities.
Empowering athletes, families, coaches, and organizations to create opportunities for lifetime success,
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