How to Become a Leader in the Locker Room

Championship teams rely on having team leaders in the locker room. However, athletes on the team have to earn the right to lead their teammates. It starts with leading themselves. Leading yourself begins with developing character.

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Big Ben’s Transformation

Ben Rothlesburger might have been the Steeler’s franchise quarterback, but for a long time he wasn’t a leader in the team’s locker room. In fact, Ben said, “I’d be the first to admit I wasn’t a good teammate early in my career.”

Sure he performed on the field. He led the Steelers to six division titles and becoming Super Bowl Champions, twice, in 2005 and 2008. However, his personal life and off the field issues inhibited his influence with his teammates.

In March of 2007, he sought mentorship from veteran Charlie Batch. He took more responsibility for his actions, made significant changes in his life, and took ownership in the locker room.

Now, Steeler’s Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown says, “He helped me be a better player by always challenging me.” And, “He has made me a better person by talking about life things, family things.” Ben’s teammates know he has their backs.

True Leadership Is Earned

NBA great, LaBron James, believes, “Nothing is given. Everything is earned.” While the saying may not apply to everything, it does speak to a truth about leadership.

What makes a leader? A leader is someone who:
  • Upholds team values and standards
  • Follows through on commitments
  • Works hard, even when no one is looking
  • Puts the team first

5 Core Components of Leading in the Locker Room

I believe that the hardest person for us to lead is ourselves. In order for athletes to earn the right to lead their teammates, they must first learn to lead themselves.

Below are 5 core components an athlete must work at to become what every championship team needs, a leader among peers – a leader in the locker room.

1. Integrity

When a teammate follows through on what they said they would do it commands the trust and respect of others. This shows teammates that an individual can be counted on.

2. Self-Discipline

“You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit,” according to Aristotle. A team leader leads by example, modeling the team’s values and upholding the standards that all have agreed to.

3. Selfless

Athletes who put we before me place their team’s goals ahead of their own. This means sacrificing individual preferences, playing time, and off the field opportunities for the betterment of the team.

Team first athletes earn the right to lead their peers.

4. Quality Effort

Athletes who work hard to get better everyday model purpose-driven behavior for their teammates. Modeling a growth mindset, seeking feedback, and evaluating every drill, workout, and game sets a tone for your team.

When you set the tone, you gain influence in the locker room.

5. Responsibility

Athletes who take responsibility for their attitude, effort, and actions earn the respect of their teammates. This includes taking responsibility for mistakes. Nobody wants to follow a person who makes excuses and blames others.

Encourage athletes to own their mistakes and their role.

Bonus Download

To help you share these 5 core components with your teams and athletes, download this free poster. It makes a great handout or you can hang it up around your locker room.

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Equip Your Team Leaders

Don’t simply appoint team leaders or captains and expect those individuals to lead your team. Leadership in your athletes needs to be cultivated. Break down the expectations and teach your athletes about the 5 core components required to become a leader in the locker room.

Question: What did I miss? What are other qualities an athlete must develop to become a leader in the locker room?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.


Please note: I encourage reader discussion, however, I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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