Adapt mentally, not physically

Anyone can lead despite skill level


Alec Pittman

Going into my final fall season with my club swim team, I assumed the culture would behave as it had always in the past — no cliques and no conflict.

However, as the season progressed, I came to find my expectations were not reality as the team looked to be more divided and less communicative than in years past.

Early in the season, the team had scheduled a day with our regular sports psychologist, Shaun Goodsell. Feeling the need to talk with him about my thoughts on the disgruntled team environment, I connected with him after he led a discussion on hopes and plans for the season.

I shared with him the conflicts at practice, how those conflicts caused different friend groups to arise and how, in the end, they created a disunified team as a whole. Instead of responding directly to my questions about the team, he targeted his response more specifically to my character.

I now know to be a successful leader, leading through positivity matters so much more than physical skill.

— Alec Pittman

Shaun asked how it was that I was able to see the issues while others could not. He pointed out my skill of interacting with all my teammates and how it gave me an understanding of the team others didn’t possess. He asked me to use my skills to lead the team toward a better environment and future, not necessarily by being the best physical swimmer in practice, but by being the most positive and interactive of all my teammates.

Taking Shaun’s words to heart, I began to try and lead my team by encouraging teammates to keep going in tough sets or by talking one-on-one with friends. However, seeing no real progress, I began to question whether it was worth it or not to lead my teammates.

But, choosing to stay positive, I continued to try to help as a leader not in the pool, but rather just as a friend. Soon enough, day by day, my teammates began going out of their way to lead one another both in and out of the water. The entire team worked as one to motivate, provide encouragement and most of all, create companionship with all the members on the team.

The rest of the season all my teammates embraced one another in positivity and encouragement. Shifting from the mindset that I couldn’t lead without physically being the best to the idea anyone could lead, I felt more a leader than I ever had before. I now know to be a successful leader, leading through positivity matters so much more than physical skill.