Lead by Example

In many leagues rules prohibit goaltenders from wearing the C on their jerseys, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be team leaders. I learned this myself as a junior in high school.

Most teams let players vote for captains. This turns the captain designation into a popularity contest most times , not a vote of who can lead the team both in the locker room and on the ice when needed. This was my experience on many of the teams I played for. The role of the captain though is to be a team leader, not most popular.

If you’ve seen the movie “Goon:Last of the Enforcers,” this point is made in a rather amusing way when Anders Cain takes over the captaincy when Doug Glatt retires after injury.

Playing on the JV team my junior year of high school my head coach had a talk with me, and let me know that he expected me to set an example for the underclassmen on not only how to give maximum effort all the time, but how to handle themselves off the ice – in the locker room, in the arena lobbies, in class or walking the halls. It was during that discussion that he told me that it didn’t matter who wore the C on their jersey for our team, he expected me to be the team leader.

As a young kid I could have gone the rout of lecturing players when they did something wrong, and played the role of bad cop, but that wasn’t my style. Instead, I went out there and tried to be the best at everything I did on the ice, challenging my teammates to do the same. I made sure that I didn’t just wear a shirt and tie to games as were league rules, but made sure my tie was straight, my shirt tucked in, and I looked presentable. In the locker room I made sure others weren’t picked on. In the halls I made sure to reach out to the underclassmen, let them know that I had their back.

It didn’t take long for the underclassmen to start trying harder, showing up to games with their shirts tucked in, and being better all around teammates. The team also improved and was winning games. We made the league playoffs for the first time in a number of years, and were having fun the entire season. Many of those same players went on to win the varsity league championship a year after I graduated. I by no means take credit for their achievement, but I like to think I played a small part in it.

It was during that season that the Theodore Roosevelt quote, “speak softly, and carry a big stick,” made a lot of sense to me. I learned that my actions could make an impact on those around me. I challenge all young athletes to lead by example, and not words.

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