The other day my daughter and I were talking about her basketball practice and how it was going. She told me that a freshman almost beat her at one of the sprints; you could tell it was one of those “I can’t believe it moments.” So I asked her if she told her “great job!” or encouraged her in any way. My daughter’s response surprised me a little bit: “But dad, I’m only a sophomore!”
What you may not know is that she may only be a sophomore, but she is a very good basketball player, one who much of the team already looks up to because of her skill and court leadership no matter their age. Because I see her as a leader, I shared a story from my days as a high school student. When I was a freshman in high school on the wrestling team, an older student from the team pulled me aside after the last tournament of the year. This guy was a two-time, undefeated state champion who I admired a great deal. He said to me: “Wow, you are such a good wrestler! You have an awesome work ethic and the coaches love what you do. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you will be way better than I ever was.” After almost 30 years, those words are still with me and propelled me to a very successful high school, collegiate and coaching career.
After I shared that story with my daughter, her eyes became a little wider as she understood the point I was trying to make. We talked about how she could step out of her comfort zone of just court leadership and translate that to peer leadership on and off the court. She is starting to take those steps, sometimes slowly, of being the leader and encourager of her peers…no matter her age.
I don’t share this story because it’s a feel good story about my daughter and I; I share it because we have so many potential, young leaders walking through our hallways. The question is now: how do we as leaders encourage our younger generation to step out of their comfort zones and lead their peers? Sometimes it takes a word of encouragement, sometimes it takes a modeled behavior, sometimes it takes a story relating to one of their own experiences. Whatever it takes is what we need to give as it is our duty to cultivate the leaders of tomorrow. Let’s all take the time to seek out those leaders of tomorrow, develop them and build those positive relationships. You never know, that person you develop could be the next coach, CEO, or even president. We can facilitate the beginning of their journey.