The Different Types of Leaders in Sports

Emotional, physical, and vocal leaders all play a role in the construction of a team. Unique moments call for different types of leaders, and understanding which one your athlete is will help you help them grow.

It can be challenging to create relevance between the game on TV and your athlete’s personal experience. Teaching moments that come along with watching collegiate and professional games are often restricted to small details. Taking one aspect of a batter’s swing or a basketball player’s shot is usually as much as a parent can give a young athlete to chew on at once.

Other times, however, we can find obvious teaching moments within the intangible side of the game. Seeing a star player take criticism on the sideline opens the door to sharing the importance of coachability. Getting a visual of players supporting one another offers parents a chance to express the value in being a good teammate. This Sunday, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the Pittsburgh Steelers, a chance to discuss leadership with young athletes was on display.

Tom Brady, quarterback of the Buccaneers, is a shoo-in for the NFL’s Hall of Fame, but he has also been revered as one of the league’s best leaders for the past 20 years. As with anything in life, there is some good, some bad, and some ugly that goes into leadership. This weekend, the ugly made it on TV.

The commentary on this clip is contradictory to the description attached to it, with the Tweet coming from a random fan, so I’ll leave the speculation on Brady’s role in this particular situation up to you. The teaching moment to take away from this is about what being a leader looks like.

There are different types of leaders on every team. Vocal leaders use their voices to reinforce their team’s identity, physical leaders speak with their actions on the field, and emotional leaders motivate the players around them. Some players can only handle one of these roles, and others have the ability to lead in a variety of ways. Regardless of which leader your athlete is, it is important to help them discover the most appropriate and effective ways to fill their role.

The intensity that comes with sports makes independent and confident individuals out of young athletes and allows them ample opportunity to rise up as effective leaders. When moments like this one with Tom Brady arise, it opens the door to discussing the different types of leaders within sports, which one your athlete is, and the best times to deploy their strength. Not every moment demands the intensity that we see here from Brady, and not every athlete has that kind of fire in them.

Witnessing clear displays of leadership—good, bad, or ugly—by professionals is an opportunity for your athlete to learn. Ask for their thoughts on how the situation played out, and if they have any ideas to differently—or better—handle the situation. See if they have any unique opinions on leadership, and then try to help them find the right times to put them to use.


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