While some student athletes come by leadership skills naturally, most have to work at it. At some point all student athletes are called upon to exhibit leadership skills, whether it’s motivating a teammate to embrace a new game plan or helping a peer overcome adversity.

To increase your leadership skills and positively impact team morale, consider the following:

Demonstrate Dedication

The most influential way to show commitment to your team is to go beyond what is required by your coach and put in extra work. Work on your skills by coming to practice early or staying late. Give 110% effort at practice every time. Others will see your effort and you will be leading by example.

Be Optimistic

When you lose or otherwise don’t achieve what you set out to do, it’s easy to get down on yourself or others. However, pessimism will bring the whole team down. Keep a positive attitude and your optimism will be contagious.

Offer to Help

If a teammate needs assistance with something, offer to help. Even by doing the least little thing, you can show that you care about the team and you will motivate others to do the same.

Own up to Your Actions

We all make mistakes. Show character by taking responsibility for yours. Then explain how you plan to avoid that mistake in the future. Your coach and teammates will admire you for it.

Make the Team Your Priority

The top echelon of sports stars reach the pinnacle because they helped their teammates win, not because of their individual stats. Lesser players try to maximize their individual results. Leaders place personal success beneath the team’s success.


Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is one of the most important principals of leadership expert Stephen Covey. To understand your teammates, you have to listen to them. One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is to appear not to be listening. Body language is key. Make eye contact and don’t do other things. Focus on actively listening. When others feel like you are listening, they will respect you and your opinions more.

Be Assertive

People expect leaders to be assertive. It’s one of the defining qualities of a leader. After all, if a leader doesn’t speak up, who will? However, be sure not to be over assertive. People don’t like working with someone who comes on too strong. One of the real challenges of being a leader is knowing where to draw the line.

Manage your Stress

Much has been written about managing stress because of the health benefits, but a leader must also manage stress because of the example it sets for teammates. If you are challenged managing your own stress, how can you help teammates manage their stress?

Experience is the Best Teacher

Think about certain experiences in your life, either on or off the field,court or ice. Did they go as planned? What could you have done to improve the situation? Get feedback from teammates and coaches. A vital skill that leaders exhibit is being able to learn from past experience.

Communications Skills

The ability to communicate well is critical to being a leader in athletic pursuits, as well as in all other aspects of life. Communications skills can be greatly enhanced by keeping a few things in mind. First, always know what you are trying to communicate. If you don’t know, how can anyone else? Second, ask if your point is getting across. You can’t always tell from non-verbal communication. Third, try to understand the other person’s point of view so that you can take it into account when communicating.

Mastering these 10 areas will put you well on your way to being a capable team leader.

Become a Leader!

Want to learn more about becoming a leader? Check out the Life of an Athlete’s Leadership Guide.