Derek Jeter. Tom Brady. Kobe Bryant. Three polarizing men that have forever left an imprint on the sports they play. Regardless of your view on these three individuals, each of these athletes have shown uncommon leadership in their respective roles as team captain. Showing the kind of leadership that has transcended their position, their teams, and at times, their sports. The influence they each have had is remarkable in that they continually made their teammates better when they stepped into the competition. They modeled excellence in their respective sports while directing their teams toward victory, and it was the influence they possessed that made them such great captains for their teams (Hackman, 2011). This influence can be broken into three important characteristics: care, courage, and consistency. It is these three characteristics that make a team captain a great captain and played an important role in Derek Jeter, Tom Brady and Kobe Bryant’s lives of leadership.
Derek Jeter, a retired baseball player for the New York Yankees, has been a leader who shows he genuinely cares. But what does it mean to care as a leader? A study done by Lauer and Blue showed that being an effective team captain involves having an overflow of passion for teammates, the game, and competition. This passion for one’s teammates has an elevated importance to a captain, as one task the captain often partakes of is conflict resolution. A caring captain will show sensitivity to individual differences between teammates and will present solutions in a positive manner during times of conflict. This individuality and positivity makes an effective leader, as it involves placing the team’s success before one’s personal desires and needs (Lauer & Blue). Andy Pettitte, who played alongside Jeter for 13 seasons, said about his commitment, “We play in a city where a whole lot of stuff is made out of what’s going on around us. The reason why Derek has thrived is because he keeps it simple. He doesn’t let everything clutter his mind. He is focused on one thing – to take care of the team’s business. He continuously pushes everyone around him to focus even during the difficult times. He often will take the stress upon his own shoulders so the rest of us can focus on playing” (Lennon, 2013). Pettitte’s sentiments speak to Jeter’s ability to put the team before himself, and to be a source of clarity and discipline when distractions threaten team performance. Many players, like Ichiro Suzuki, stayed to play with the Yankees, not because of New York or the Yankees, but because of Jeter – a player who cared (Lennon, 2013).
Courage is also a key characteristic among effective captains. Captains are often seen as the model of excellence in a team because they step up when necessary and are not afraid to compete in the worst situations; they are known to “walk the talk” (Lauer & Blue). A good captain sets the example for the team by displaying and encouraging the values of the team on and off the field. Tom Brady did just that during the 2017 Super Bowl. With the Patriots down by 25 points, Brady pulled his team together and reminded them of why they are playing in the Super Bowl. He never gave up. In the fourth quarter with seconds on the clock, he threw a pass into triple coverage. A decision that he had made on his own after running the clock for 15 seconds and neither of his desired options were open. An extremely risky pass, tipped by the defense, Brady’s pass was made complete. Brady is an example of courage as he makes plays with seconds to go that have led his team to many victories (Rohan, 2017). He is a leader that has been known to be a reliable player, taking the blame for his mistakes and the mistakes of his team. Brady steps up when necessary even in the most difficult situations on and off the field (Economy, 2017). Matthew Slater said this about Brady in an interview, “We look to him. We have a lot of confidence in him as a player, as a leader, as a teammate, and as a friend. We are thankful he is on our side.” Brady puts a lot of work in to see the success of his team be achieved.
Lastly: Consistency. Consistency is when a captain is holding himself to a high standard, giving it his all in games, and continuing to be caring and courageous when things don’t go their way. This often causes the individual to become more vocal on and off the court through actions and words (Hackman, 2011). 32,482 career points have given athletes 32,482 reasons to look up to Kobe Bryant. Yet his example transcends his statistics. (Hansford, 2015). “There aren’t too many people who understand how you bring it, night after night after night, for all those years at that level, and he is one of the guys who did it,” said coach Greg Popovich. The consistency that Bryant brought to the court every game was exemplary; he focused on pushing himself and others to be the best version of themselves. He truly is a man worth recognizing for his love of the game.
Care, courage, and consistency are characteristics that will enhance the influence a captain has on his teammates, and, in turn, lead to success. These characteristics have created captains who are known to be the glue that holds their teams together while leading their team to victory.
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Hackman, R. (2011, March 1). Do Teams Need Leaders? Retrieved February 27th, 2017, fromhttp://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/do-teams-need-leaders
Hansford, C. (2015, February 16). Kobe Bryant on Leadership: ‘You’re not going to please everybody.’ Retrieved March 2nd, 2017, fromhttp://www.lakersnation.com/kobe-bryant-on-leadership-youre-not-going-to-please-everybody/2015/02/16/
Lauer, L. & Blue, K. Association for Applied Sport Psychology: The 3 C’s of Being a Captain. Retrieved February 20th, 2017, fromhttp://www.appliedsportpsych.org/resources/resources-for-athletes/the-3-c-s-of-being-a-captain/
Lennon, D. (2013, March 30). Those Who Know Him Speak Glowingly of Derek Jeter’s Leadership. Retrieved March 7th, 2017,http://www.newsday.com/sports/baseball/yankees/those-who-know-him-speak-glowingly-of-derek-jeter-s-leadership-1.4961273
Rohan, T. (2017, February 5). The Greatest Comeback Ever. Retrieve March 8th, 2017, from http://mmqb.si.com/mmqb/2017/02/05/nfl-super-bowl-51-new-england-patriots-tom-brady-bill-belichick-fifth-super-bowl-ring