Articles Leadership Values

Garage league leaders

Every Friday night, I play hockey in a garage league where I live.  Picture twenty guys, forty years old and over, desperately trying to create their Sportscenter highlight reel moment all the while claiming they are “just playing for fun”.  The last six months have put me in many leadership conversations and after the game last Friday night, I started wondering what leadership should look like in a garage league.

Like anywhere that a bunch of guys play together, you have different levels of competitiveness.  For some players, it occurs like an evening with the boys while for other players, it occurs like they are fighting to win the Stanley cup each week.  The leadership dilemma is resolving the two different views.

You expect the leaders on a competitive hockey team, to call out players that do not bring their best game consistently.  Is the expectation different for leaders on teams where the game occurs like a weekly night of fun with the boys?  And while we claim we are playing on teams, we never schedule team practices during the week to become more cohesive as a team.  I would also theorize we possibly do not have the same definition of the word “team”.  Aside from wearing the same colored jersey, what makes us believe we are a team?

How can you define the leadership role with such a liberal definition of the word “team”?  Are the leaders the star players that show a strong willingness to win or are they the people showing a sense of fair play while encouraging others to do their best?

Should we consider the league organizers as leaders?  A stronger question is whether they see themselves as leaders of the group or do they feel they are acting in service to the group by organizing and running the league?

Assuming the league organizers consider themselves as leaders, in their context, what does this mean?  Does it mean their on-ice behavior reflects what they expect of others?  How does their on-ice behavior influence the group?

Why am I asking myself all these questions?  We are just playing for fun… aren’t we?


About the author


Steffan Surdek

I am a leadership development coach, corporate trainer, professional speaker and author. I believe in contributing to a greater cause, making a difference and adding value.

Feel free to reach out, I would love to hear about the leadership challenges in your organization!

1 Comment

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  • Love this, Steffan!

    It makes me think of the distinction between heroes and leaders. You need heroes on your team – great players. And, you need leaders on your team – those who lead others and develop great players, the ones who make stuff happen that wasn’t going to happen any way. Ideally, heroes are also leaders. But, so often, especially on a sports team, they are just heroes – to the detriment of the team. So, I’m an LA Laker fan. Kobe Bryant is a hero, but not a leader. Magic Johnson was both a hero and a leader. Both can win. But, it looks pretty different in play.