Lessons I've Learned About Leading (#2)

Second post in the LILAL series. If this is your first time reading, check the intro post.

In my last two years of high school I was given the opportunity to serve as starting point guard of our Div II Basketball team. You'd need to meet me in person to understand how significant that is. As a quiet Asian girl that stands slightly under 5', most people don't look at me and automatically think - "basketball player!" I don't know how much competitive basketball you've played in your life or if you remember what it was like to be sub 5-foot, but it pretty much means you're going to be out-rebounded in every conceivable situation. Every starting position you will ever play is earned. You must run faster, jump higher, and out-defend every opponent because at the end of the day, all talent being equal, someone taller matched skill for skill will outplay you. Not saying I didn't wish to grow a few inches every night, but I also refused to make it an excuse or a crutch. Not when playing against the guys or when someone a foot taller capped me. Mentally, I was stronger. I was that scrappy kid who would steal the ball back if you stole it from me.

Mental strength is the only thing that really matters when your physical strength is impaired or depleted. Ask any marathon runner or handicapped person and they will have stories for you. An unexpected chance to test my mental strength came in the final few games of my senior year. Long story short, an opponent tackled me and I became a bench-warming, moral-supporting, ankle sprain on crutches. And when you're a starting point guard in your senior year with no plans to play college ball, the last thing you want to be is injured at the end of your final season. So I watched my teammates play a very competitive game against Punahou that went into double overtime and nearly had me bursting into flames with the desire to be on court. It was difficult to reconcile how screaming encouragement from the sidelines was somehow helping my teammates. Ironically, I never felt more desire to play than during that game - a game I couldn't actually be in. As an insanely competitive person, wanting to win is nothing new to me, but it's different experiencing that as an observer rather than a player. Absent the nerves and potential risk that it could be my free throw or my turnover that decides the game, I was closer to an overzealous fan rooting at a football game, than a team captain leading from the sidelines.

Later in life I would learn that leading from the sidelines and being a fan of your players is just what a good coach does for a team...

To be honest, I can't remember if we won the game or not. It didn't matter. The team's enormous effort overshadowed any victory or loss recorded on a scoreboard. Each come-from-behind shot taking us into overtime, then double overtime, was a scrappy Iolani team unwilling to quit. I was so proud of us.

Most people think of leadership as the person standing front and center, commanding attention, guiding the troops into battle. But there's a different kind of leadership, a much more powerful breed, that persists through a culture and its people because of trust and investment. A kind of leadership that builds other leaders to think and act as if you were there even when you're not. Not out of fear, but because people believe in what you believe in and are willing to fight, sacrifice, and suffer for the cause. That's the kind of impact I one day hope to make.

A true leader is not the one with the most followers, but one who creates the most leaders.  ~Neale D.W.

When I was a team captain in high school, leadership meant running with a teammate when you didn't have to. Egging them to go a little faster, push a littler harder, by outpacing them just a bit to give them just-out-of-reach goals. Creating tangible goals in practice is one thing, but in a game situation things can't be altered as easily and often you have to trust your teammates to make the right call on their own. Being a point guard means playing a position slightly more strategic than any other - controlling the game's tempo, calling plays/timeouts, always being aware of the open man, being the first back on D to prevent fast break. When you are the first person to touch the ball on offense 90% of the time you naturally fall into a leadership role. In hindsight, I wonder if the success of our team would have been different or greater with another guard leading? I wonder if I did enough to teach the next year's team lessons that I wish someone told me? If I could go back in time, that's one thing I'd probably try to do better.

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Meet the Author

Hi, I am Julie.
Sometimes Jules Juke.
This is where I ramble, reflect, and refocus.