The coach isn't important here

Do you remember Principal Vernon in the Breakfast Club? Neither do I. Why? Because he didn’t matter. 

Let me back-up. I am sitting here trying figure out how to start my blog about youth leadership and I keep thinking about this:


Other than this being the Best. Movie. Ever. Because of Molly Ringwald’s cute outfit and Judd Nelson’s raised fist - it symbolizes Youth Leadership.

Over the past 6 months I have interviewed 26 athletes who play 12 different sports about conflict, teamwork and leadership. Without exception they told me their go-to for support is their teammates. The coach isn’t important here. Youth leaders are where it’s at.

So this got me thinking about the age-old question: 

Are leaders born or made?

Oh… and also... 

How do I design a workshop for this?  

So I hit the computer, put a course together and contacted a local girls soccer association:

The Leadership Workshop will focus on developing skills in identified athletes to support their teams both on and off the field. They will learn concepts of team dynamics, communication and clarify what qualities are important for a team leader to have. In youth sports the most influential person is often a member of the team - more so than many coaches. Investing in skill development creates many opportunities for the athlete, the team and the association. Training leadership skills equips young people to move into mentorship or coaching positions and improves athlete retention.  

They were all over it. Rec. to Metro, U13 to U18. They would send them all.

A week later, the big night arrived. I reserved the second floor preschool room at the community centre overlooking the pitch. My course had candy, a cool Power Point with pictures of Christine Sinclair, the Sedins & Obama and colourful take-home Leadership Communication Tips and Tricks cards. Sitting on one of those little and oddly comfortable preschool chairs, I waited for the LEADERS to show up.

Close your eyes. Who do you see walking through the door?

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Nope. Well, yah. There were a few girls who looked like this. Pretty, athletic, happy, confident. But there were also girls who did not fit this mold at all. 

Think Breakfast Club. And that was just it. Through this workshop I realized that leadership is not about embodying a list of pre-determined personality traits.

Brene Brown (this is a blog about leadership - did you think I wasn’t going to mention her?!) wisely says, you know you are a leader when:

In a conversation with your team - your members can recite their value back to you.

You don’t have to be THAT person to do this. At the end of the Breakfast Club there was no THAT person. It was a process where the team developed awareness of their own individual strengths through the coaching of their peers. In other words, they spilled their guts all day, argued, came together, and realized they were all pretty cool in their own way. 

So to quote Harvard University’s Michael Sinangel,

Leadership is a paradox. Leaders transcend the confines of a defining box.

If you are able to have a relationship with your teammate where SHE can say to YOU:

I am good at getting the gang together for Boston Pizza.


I am there when Michelle is feeling down after a game and needs to talk.

Then guess what, leader? You got this.

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At the end of the workshop I took a pic of the kids going in for a cheer. The image is blurry, the hands were not evenly placed. 

Like leadership, it is imperfect and a little hard to define.  

Nadia KybaComment