Are You Coaching Your Athletes HOW To Be Better Leaders?

written by Erica Quam


Part of being a coach means coaching your athletes to become stronger leaders.

Just like you coach technical skills, it’s also important to coach them on leadership self awareness, communication, judgement & decision-making, and tolerance for adversity.

Help them discover their strengths, uncover their weaker areas, and find ways for them to contribute, learn, and evolve as leaders throughout each season.

If that sounds like a huge responsibility to add to your plate...READ ON! I’ll teach you 3 specific ways to help you coach your athletes on leadership this season.


The majority of the athletes on your team don’t think of themselves as a leader. That’s the bottom line. If they aren’t a senior or a team may not even be on their radar.

Be intentional about how you structure leadership on your team. Let your team know you believe everyone is a leader. They just may need permission from you to step up, speak up, and contribute.

Break leadership down into 4 leadership roles:

  1. designated leader

  2. active follower

  3. peer leader

  4. self leader

Define these roles as a team. Take time to have a team discussion:

  • What does it look like to be a designated leader?

  • What expectations do we have of leaders in this role on our team?

  • How can you be better as an active follower (to support the leadership within our designated leaders)

  • What's an example of peer leadership?

  • What's challenging about being a peer leader on this team?

  • What does it mean to have good self leadership?

  • What's one way you can be a better self leader this season?

  • How do each of these roles connect with one another?

  • How can each role support leadership within other roles?


Your team culture or team environment needs to be a place where people can effectively learn and grow. The foundation to your team has to be one of trust. If there isn’t trust, there is mistrust or a negative amount of stress.


Consider how the pressure and stress your athletes experience impact their performance.

What can you do as a coach to help your athletes stay in their optimal performance zone?

1. Talk about how to create a positive learning environment as a team
2. Find out what stresses people out and distracts from individual learning
3. Figure out how to work together as a team to help and support one another



Every athlete you coach will have a unique signature style as a leader. Think of it like their unique thumbprint of leadership.

It’s where they are the most effective and it’s where they feel most comfortable. It’s also when they’re more likely to find that ‘flow state’ and be in their optimal performance zone.

It’s up to you to help them figure this out and help them develop within this style. There are situations where they’ll have to adapt their behavior to be able to handle a situation successfully. Help them realize how that takes a lot of energy...and it’s also when they’ll be under the most stress.

Three ways to help your student-athletes discover their own signature style:

1) Give them time for reflection about their habits, beliefs, values, and behaviors. Make the connection between how they operate in the world and the impact they make on their relationships
2) Be proactive in providing opportunities for them to receive regular feedback from you and their teammates to help them see things that are hidden in their blindspot. 
3) Provide them with multiple self awareness toolsthe DiSC, Strengths Finder, Myers-Briggs, etc. so they can get information from a variety of sources.

By defining leadership roles, working on team culture, and supporting everyone’s unique individual leadership style you’re going to have a lot more success and leadership on your team this year.

What’s one thing you’ll implement as a coach after reading this post? Share it here.