Solidifying the leadership position on a team is vital for success. But it’s not easy being a leader, and often it’s a task too tall for one man to tackle.
Enter Coach Mark Dantonio’s Unity Council, a group of 16 Michigan State football players elected by their teammates to fill the leadership position for the Spartans. The council, which includes players from each class, meets with Coach Dantonio every week to ensure that standards for conduct, both on and off the field, are being upheld by all members of the team.
“A lot of times, leaders are born out of crisis situations,” Dantonio says. “Our players are gravitating toward leadership…and are trying to be accountable to each other.”
The Unity Council was formed after three tumultuous seasons, starting in 2007, when Dantonio took the helm in East Lansing. In 2009, the Spartans failed to live up to expectations, and an on-campus altercation resulted in the suspension of 11 players.
The newly-formed council helps Dantonio handle business and manage the team off the field, enabling the rest of the Spartans to focus on their 2010 goals: winning football games and earning national respect.
For high school players, forming a group similar to the Spartans’ Unity Council can serve as a great team-building tool, in addition to strengthening the player-coach bond. Take it up with your coach or his assistants. We’d be surprised if they reject the idea.
Your team can also form a leadership group among the players alone. Just don’t turn the selection into a popularity contest. “It’s about earning the respect of your peers,” says Spartans senior linebacker and captain Greg Jones. “Nobody’s going to follow someone they don’t respect.”