Photo: Paul Rudderow
As the Union enter their fourth game of the season, we have so far witnessed a team that seems to have the talent to compete without the results.
All the pieces seem to be in place as they look like a team that could stand with the best. But instead, they struggle to assert their will. They are putting in the effort but getting a minimal return. It’s still early in the season for any kind of judgement, but they can’t fall behind and try to catch up. As a Philly sports fan, we know all too well how that ends up.
In my attempts to understand why they can play well and still not win, I’m reminded of my own experience in the Army.
There are more than a few parallels between sports and being a soldier. Both are physically rigorous and require tireless study, practice and teamwork. More importantly, both require experienced leadership to work together as a team and instill the confidence needed to win.
Leadership is something that is thrown around a lot in sports, but rarely it is defined.
The Army has a definition of leadership: “The process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.”
What does that mean in practice?
NCOs (non-commissioned officers) like me use the “Be Know Do” method day-to-day to remind us of our role. To be a leader you must:
- Be the type of person that you would follow by staying calm under pressure and using sound judgement.
- Know your craft better than anyone else by putting more time and effort into refining your skills.
- Do all the things you ask of everyone else and lead by example. Practice what you preach and don’t think that you’re better than the others.
This team appears to be missing that leadership.
It doesn’t matter where it comes from, but the Union need it now, not at midseason. Someone needs to step up and assume that role or we’re going to see a lot of close games that will end up with points left behind.
I have a lot of faith in this team and believe they will find the leaders inherent in themselves and build the character necessary to win those close games. But for now, it looks like the more experienced players haven’t learned how to go beyond playing well by helping the others who are struggling to play well.
When they do, they will get everyone on the same page. They will be selfless and facilitate their teammates’ success. They will bolster in them the confidence to dig deep when the odds are against them and pull out the win.
There’s a lot of young talent on this team and others waiting in the system in Bethlehem or the academy. As thousands more at home or at the game looking for their role model, they need to inspire not just their teammates but future players that will someday bring the trophy home. That is the true sign of leadership.