A story from growing up…
After playing football for the high school team for three years (starting in grade 9), in my fourth and final year on the team, I felt, as a grade 12 student in my fourth year that I would be named as one of the captains. Unfortunately, we were getting a new coach this year and I did not know how he would take to the idea.
As I met him two weeks before school started, I let him know that as one of only three players with four years experience, that I was going to be one of the captains. He looked at me dumbfounded and said, “Really?”
I looked right back at him, and said, “Really.”
Simply, he replied, “we will see.”
Astonished that a newcomer was going to come into my school and start deciding what my final year was going to look, I was quite upset that I was going to have to prove myself over again. Every time someone was a four-year veteran on the team, they became the captain. That’s how it was and that’s how it should be. With that being said, I knew that we had a bright outlook as a team and I would put all of my effort into proving him wrong (in my mind), and that he would have no choice but to name me as one of the captains. I busted my butt in every single practice and tried to not only lead with words, but actions. I was going to make certain that I would do anything to be captain that year as it was more about the prestige than anything at that time.
One of the traditions of the football team was the “rooking” process which had gone on for many years before I started to play. Seems stupid now but it was part of what we did when we were kids. It was nothing like the “hazing” that we often hear about on television, but it was a “gotchie-pull” here and there. It was considered initiation onto the team and a rite of passage that the grade 12′s passed on to the new players on the team. That was until the new coach explicitly told us that this would not happen this year as it did not build a positive culture on the team. Again, the “new guy” was wrecking everything.
Secretly one day, we decided to go against our coach and go through the process. Unfortunately, the secret did not last long and at practice the next day, our coach asked us, “Did any rooking happen and if it did, who was responsible?” Everyone was terrified. At that point, all I could think of was losing the shot at being captain because I totally screwed up, but I also could not be dishonest. As we stood in practice, I stepped forward in front of everyone and said that I was responsible and it did happen. After that, all of the other teammates that took part also stepped forward. Because of this, our coach made us do drills near to the point of exhaustion and on a hot day, it was not easy. I remember doing what he asked and not complaining once, knowing that I had done something wrong.
The next day, as he named the five captains, he called my name last. Even after screwing up, he still named me a captain. As I talked to him later, he told me that my leading by example in the good times and taking ownership for screwing up showed leadership potential. I would still have to prove him right throughout the year, but he knew that I had the potential for leadership and it had nothing to do with the number of years that I had played or put in. It had to do with my actions.
A lesson that sticks with me to this day.