For the purposes of this article…
I’d like to concede that successful leadership is complex and difficult to describe. If there were a simple formula, then we wouldn’t have problems with leadership. Congress would be functional, and all team decisions would reflect the best interests of the group. Rosters would be submitted on time. But leadership takes different forms and a wide variety of pathways towards getting people where they want to go. Or where they should want to go. Leadership is tough to define, and I won’t try here. Go read Clausewitz or Delpit for yourself.
Leadership is also based in community, and it was within the Moho youth ultimate community that I was taught this abrupt lesson. Moho was a non-tournament-focused, non-school-based team of individual ultimate players in Seattle. At its worst, it brought together motivated players to share techniques and scrimmage together when their individual schools didn’t yet have teams on which to play. At its best, it combined great coaches and as many as 80 players driven to a great education in our sport. When Miranda Roth gave an in-depth footwork lesson in layout blocks or Sam O’Brien led an hour-long drill session in working near a sideline, that education translated vividly. It wasn’t funded, but it gave rise to a generation of great players (see: Seattle club ultimate, et al.) and was the precursor to the superior and better-supported Seattle Fryz program which focused a bit more on tournament play. That’s our setting. Now here’s my lesson.
Of my first class of Moho players, I could have easily and very wrongly picked out the future leaders. There were tall, well-spoken, outgoing and confident players that you just knew would be easy to follow. They were stalwart players even at a young age, and they had the attitude and conviction to improve in the game. Other players gravitated towards them, and I am happy to say that some of these players did in fact go on to be the kind of names that, when they show up on a roster, people notice. So I wasn’t ALL wrong, was I? At least the leaders came from the group that I would have picked, with the understandable chaos of youth leading some people to choose different paths or identities or even different pursuits entirely.
My lesson, though, came in part from two specific players who I would never have spotted as future leaders.