The Biggest Mistakes You Make When Choosing and Managing Leaders by: Kate Boyd, Guest Contributor I believe that cheerleading is more than an athletic activity. It is a platform for teaching young people how to be better leaders. That’s why choosing leaders and managing them well may be the most important tasks you have in a season. If you can avoid some or all of these mistakes, you’ll be on your way to building better leaders. Starting the Process Too Late While there should be consistency in the process you use to select team leaders from year to year, I think that choosing only based on what you see the week of tryouts is not wise. Instead, you should be watching for new leaders throughout the entire season‚ seeing how they interact with others on the team and how others respond to them. Then when the process comes along you’ll have a more complete picture of an individual as a leader. Choosing On Skill Alone Should your cheer captain be a capable cheerleader? Absolutely! But if you choose only by their tryout score or their skill level, you may not be choosing the best leader. You need someone whose skill has credibility but can also lead with strength and integrity. Taking Yourself Out Of The Process The wrath of a cheer parent is a terrible thing, but what’s worse is having a leader that you cannot work with. It’s great to have a process and have outside input, but you cannot leave everything in the hands of others. This is your team, and you need to be able to choose your leaders, stand by your decision, and even be willing to admit you were wrong later on. Being a Bad Example I firmly believe that young people will do what we say sometimes but what we do often. It is important that you embody the type of leader you would like to build. If you are not willing to lead by serving your team then you can’t expect a young person to do it either. Giving Them Too Much Control Your captains should be capable leaders, but that doesn’t mean that they should replace you during practice. Letting a teenager completely rule over their peers is not healthy for them or for the team. Be sure that you are involved and active in every practice. Giving Them Nothing To Do On the other hand, giving someone a title but no responsibility is also a mistake. Give them direction and specific expectations for their role‚ whether it’s running the warm up time, coming up with sideline incorporations, or leading team building activities‚ then let them be the leaders you chose them to be. Not Being a Mentor Part of building leaders means taking time to walk through their role with them. You’ve been there as a coach. Now you have the opportunity to build a relationship with a young person that will equip them to be a strong leader in the future. Don’t just give them responsibility, show them how to live up to that and build a personal relationship with them. Being Too Involved It’s easy to think that teaching someone to lead means only showing them through example or doing it all for them so they see it, but here’s the truth. Most people learn best by doing it themselves, even if it means there is more time used and more mistakes made. So don’t hold their hand too much. Let your leaders make moves and even some mistakes. I believe that building leaders is a crucial part of cheerleading. If you make your young leaders a priority, then you’ll be on your way to a successful cheer year and a strong program for years to come.