In any team, leaders must emerge to create a culture, an expectation and a bond between all players. Four members of the Western Michigan University football team shared their views on leadership with our Teen Leadership students at the middle school and how it relates to their everyday lives in school, with friends and classmates.
“Lead by example,” said WMU quarterback Jon Wassink when asked what makes a great leader. “Do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it.” That gains respect from those around you who will likely follow your lead and do the same thing.
Alex Mussat, another quarterback on the team that ended up a starter after Wassink was injured, knows what it takes to step up and be a leader, too. He shares the same views as a former teammate, Jamauri Bogan, who spoke to the teen leadership students in the past. “Lead with love,” he says. “Anyone can be a leader if they care about others.”
As athletes that many kids might have heard of or follow, Teen Leadership teacher, jake Knash, likes to bring them in because it’s easy for students to relate to what they’re talking about and might find themselves in similar leadership roles, just on a different level. It also wasn’t that long ago that these college athletes were in middle school themselves, so they can give relevant and sound advice.
Brett Borske added that kids don’t have to be loud to be a leader. “You can quietly help others do the right thing,” he said. For example, whispering to a classmate to listen or get to work.
All of them shared the power of positivity. Two of the players suffered injuries that took them out for the season, but through their rehab, they also made it part of their goal to be motivators and encourage their teammates. “If friends are being negative, they’re hard to be around,” Wassink says.
One thing Mr. Knash always asks of speakers is what advice they would give their middle school selves knowing what they know now.
“Be involved,” Wassink says. He gave an example of getting involved in his school’s musical even when he didn’t think it was his thing.
“Be friends with everyone,” adds Mark Brooks. He shared that friends will change over the years, and those who you don’t know now might be a great friend in the future.
Both Borske and Mussat said not to worry about what other people think and don’t try to be part of the “cool kids” or popular. Be yourself.
The players also shared the community service projects they do as a team and how good it makes them feel. The OMS Teen Leadership classes volunteer at Mel Trotter Ministries and the Allegan County Animal Shelter. They also do several other service projects to help the community.