Youth Sports: This Player May be the Most Overlooked Person on the Team

One of the goals in youth sports is to help kids learn to be leaders. But the problem is that while many coaches and parents look for natural born, charismatic leaders, they often overlook some of the strongest leaders on the team. When my son played quarterback, his coaches sometimes got frustrated with him because he was not a rah-rah leader. He wasn’t a cheerleader who pumped players up on the sidelines or on the field. They wanted him to be more vocal and authoritative. They mistook his calm demeanor as a lack of passion. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

You see, my son’s style of leadership was relational, not rah-rah. He was a leader because all of his teammates respected him. He was a leader because his teammates knew he would take all the blame, and none of the glory. Every one of his offensive linemen had his back and did their best to protect him. He was a leader just because of who he was. Rah-rah leaders are important. Every youth sports team needs to have one. But don’t overlook the relational leaders that command respect because of their humility, work ethic and dedication.

Is Your Child Overlooked?

If your child is like my son, then he may be on a youth sports team where he is overlooked as a leader. If so, perhaps this parenting advice will help you boost his confidence in his leadership style.

  • Affirm who he is. Don’t keep telling him he needs to be like so-and-so or to “step up and be a leader!” His coaches will do enough of that.
  • Talk with him about what it means to be a leader on his sports team. It’s not just about being outgoing or commanding attention; it’s about setting an example of good character on and off the field.
  • Encourage him to keep working hard. The cream always rises to the top and if your child consistently shows strong character and a positive team attitude, he will eventually be seen as a leader, whether he is striving to be one or not.
  • Don’t be fooled by titles. Even if your child is not voted team captain or co-captain, it does not mean they cannot be a leader. When my daughter played varsity basketball, she was not voted captain. At first, she was disappointed, feeling that her hard work had earned her that position. We told her, however, that she didn’t need a title to be a leader. Throughout the season, her positive, encouraging attitude was a force on her team, even though she was not officially labeled as “leader.”


If your child feels overlooked because they are a relational and not a rah-rah leader, remind them that people are watching and listening, and that their influence will be felt.

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