Note to Readers:
For the last several weeks, Strive: How You Lead Matters staff had the pleasure of working with Sanford School Senior, Marcus Childers McCollum. While completing his Senior Project with Strive, Marcus immersed himself in learning about the work we do and why. As a high school student-athlete himself, he's had personal experiences as a leader and a student-athlete.
In honor of Marcus’s graduation TODAY, we are sharing a blog he wrote for Strive, providing his thoughts on leadership and the key factors that helped him develop as a successful student-athlete leader.
Take it away Marcus...
Formula For Success:
- You first have to serve to be a great leader
- Know your teachers, teammates, and coaches
- Be aware of expectations and culture
- Carry yourself in a respectable way
- Manage your time wisely, make necessary sacrifices
- Balance academics and athletics
- Communicate effectively
The toughest thing for a student-athlete to do is be a leader both in the classroom and on the court or field. People are often eager to be leaders, but they are not eager to serve. Serving may be riding the bench freshman and sophomore year, or being the water boy while building a strong academic foundation. I can relate to this personally because I played zero varsity minutes my freshman year on the Sanford basketball team. My sophomore year was a similar story, I played the last three minutes of blowout games. During this time, while developing as a basketball player, I built a strong academic foundation. I scheduled honors classes that I knew would present me with a challenge. I quickly realized that many of the lessons I had learned on the court translated into the classroom. Because of my serving experience during these early high school years, I learned the culture of my team in its entirety and became aware of the expectations in the classroom and on the court.
As a student-athlete, transitioning into your junior and senior year, you become more mature and most times take on a greater role on your team. There are likely teammates who look up to you on and off the court. However, more important than the stats you produce or the grades you receive, is the way you carry yourself. If your coach and teammates see that you think you’re better than the team, you will lose their respect and the team chemistry will be ruined.
As your leadership role develops on the court, don’t forget about the academic success that was part of what kept you there. Time management is crucial to being a successful student-athlete leader. During the basketball season, my days consisted of school, practice, homework, then sleep. There are sacrifices that have to be made socially. Attending a party on a Friday night is probably not the best idea when you have a Saturday morning practice or game. I’m not saying that student-athlete leaders can’t have fun, but there will be some events that you have to pass up on.
Student-athletes are so accustomed to hearing the phrase, “you are a student first.” This may be the golden rule but it isn't always easy to achieve, especially when you are a person with a competitive mindset. Your competitive personality wants to go to practice and be the best athlete you can be, but the competitive academic side of you knows you should stay home and study for that math test. It is inevitable; there are going to be times when your athletics and academics schedules conflict with each other. But the way to find success is not through giving up and choosing one or the other, but instead finding a way to deal with adversity through honesty and communication.
This leads me into my last point which is communication. An essential part of being a leader is the ability to communicate effectively. Developing these communication skills will make you into a well rounded individual, not only in your respective sport, but in all aspects of life. You can relate to a player who is stuck on the bench and know how to keep him motivated. You can talk to your coach one-on-one because the coach respects you and the way you have represented the program. You can speak to your teacher after class with honesty and sincerity to request a homework extension. Show them your true commitment to your academics and willingness go the extra mile to succeed.
With all of that being said, being a student-athlete who is a leader on and off the court is not an easy task. You have to serve, learn the cultures and expectations, carry yourself well, manage your time, make social sacrifices, constantly balance and prioritize school and sports, and communicate clearly. The experience of being a student-athlete has taught me countless lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
-Marcus Childers McCollum Sanford '17 Co-Captain, Varsity Basketball, 2016-2017