Observations From the Rink: So That’s What Leadership Looks Like?


Who was the best leader you ever played with or coached? Who was the best leader you ever watched play the game?

Leaders, lead, that’s who they are and that’s what they do, but what characteristics do they possess to make them “real” leaders?

Our definition of “good kids” or “leaders” has and continues to drastically change. The real question everyone should be asking is why?

Is it entitlement?

Do we all value these leadership characteristics differently?

In some ways it’s like we have created acceptance, tolerance and some sort of vague appreciation for “fake leaders” or fringe leadership qualities.

Everyone knows the value and importance of having quality people leading the way in all walks of life, especially in the game of hockey.

At the minor hockey league level usually the letters go to the most popular or most skilled players. Obviously, you don’t have to wear a letter to be a leader. Are those in the game of hockey and every walk of life cultivating or moulding future leaders?

As young aspiring players climb the hockey ladder, the role and expectations of putting a letter on their jersey means something or you would hope it would.

You can use all the cliches you want when talking about leadership, but there’s definitely a common thread amongst quality leaders.

Leadership, well it better be real and it better be raw. In my opinion those are two qualities “ real” leaders need to possess.

Character, drive, resiliency and sacrifices made are often shared amongst the real leaders. They also need to be able to communicate effectively with everyone. That’s an exceptionally difficult skill to possess, and that’s exactly why “real leaders” are so hard to find.

There’s a sense of pride and honour that’s unparalleled amongst the players and leaders that do it the right way.

Leaders, lead, that’s what they do, but it goes beyond that on so many levels. From making others feel welcomed, to understanding possible struggles, to standing up for them, to showing them the ropes. “Real” leaders understand the impact of their involvement when it comes to showing and leading the way.

That’s what makes it so special to see kids first of all take on a leadership role and then flourish within it.

Leadership can appear or arise in the oddest of situations. If you have worked with kids or have coached you will know exactly what I’m talking about. Last year it was one kid and a few of his teammates that picked up garbage after watching one of their teammates play up a level. You see that’s leadership. You don’t need an f%*king letter on your jersey to do the right thing on or off the ice.

You see our definition of “good kids” which often equates to leaders is terribly skewed in this day and age.

Which kid will stand up and say something or put others in their place when shit is happening in the dressing room? Which kid will be kind or treat others like equals? You see sometimes the best leaders, mostly the “real” leaders do things quietly behind the scenes. They don’t need the pomp and circumstance, they just know what it takes to be a real person and leader.

Why is their a tendency happening in the game of hockey now more than ever to reward, highlight and showcase certain players as leaders when they just really aren’t?

Are we showing and modelling what leadership really looks at the minor hockey league level or are coaches just rewarding the entitled or perceived “good kids” which often times turn out to the biggest arseholes and issues on the team.

Everyone’s definition of leadership or what a leader does is different and that’s perfectly fine, “real” leadership is real and raw. If you’re not interested in looking for that in this day and age, you’re probably part of the problem.

The definition of leadership and being a “good” kid continues to vary as time goes on. Let’s hope everyone involved with mentoring kids whether it be a teacher, coach or any leader understands their importance to that process.

What does leadership mean to you?

Who was the best leader you ever played with or coached?

Who was the best leader you ever watched play the game?

Leaders, lead, that’s who they are and that’s what they do?

Let’s hope those actively working with kids or young players mentor and develop leadership skills lwuth the same fervour as any other skill acquisition endeavour and that they reward, highlight and promote those brave enough to take that on the role of a “real” leader.

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