Leadership Lessons From My Dad

Me and Dad.

My dad has always been my biggest supporter. He sat on the bucket to catch for me for years while I pursued my dream of being a Division I softball pitcher, ironed my pleated uniform skirt in the mornings before school, and proofread every essay or article I have ever written. He showed his love for me in many ways, but I am most grateful for his presence in my life during my childhood, adolescent years, and now. Whether I realized it or not, he was my first leadership coach. We have been through ups and downs together, and he always helped me learn and grow through the hard and joyful times. In honor of Father’s Day, I am sharing two lessons I learned from my dad in my teenage years. It is a window into my soul, and also his. I hope you enjoy it. 

The World is Your Mirror

My junior year of high school I was finally the starting pitcher on my high school team. My team was young. We had a few good players, but most of the team was inexperienced at the varsity level. We had a crop of four freshmen and two sophomores who were going to be in the line up.  I knew that if we were going to be successful, I was going to have to put the team on my back.

Dad and I talked about this and strategized.

“Claire, when you are on the mound, your team will mirror what you do. They are young and look up to you.”

I nodded, taking this in and thinking.

“If you are nervous and scared and acting like the defense behind you isn’t any good, that is how your teammates will act. They will be nervous and unsure of themselves.

But if you are confident, and positive, and make others feel like they are the best defense, they will mirror that back to you.”

In the next game, I walked around the mound in between pitches and talked to my teammates. I cheered them on through every pitch and out of the game, keeping them calm and focused.

“One out, let’s get the next one, we got this!”

I would point at players and say “that’s a great play” making sure they knew they were important to the team and seen. 

If someone missed a ground ball or play, I would point at them again and say “no worries, we got the next one,” knowing that we would need that player to be her best later in the inning, and it wasn’t worth them checking out and being upset about the error. 

When the inning was over, I would race off the field and be the first one at the dugout. I greeted each teammate at the dugout’s door with a high five and a good job.

I talked and cheered my teammates on A LOT. I did my best to put them at ease on the field with my confidence in myself. There were days too that I felt a little nervous about a big game, but I knew my teammates needed me, and didn’t show it. I faked it, if I needed to.

And it worked. Team morale was high. They started cheering each other on and being loud on the field too. They felt good and played well. 

We won a lot of games that year against teams that were better than us, player by player. I believed I deserved to win those games. And my team mirrored that belief all the way to a league championship while my dad looked on from the stands, proud. 

Create Your Dream Job

“Dad, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”

“That’s ok, Claire, you have plenty of time to figure that out. When you grow up, you can be anything you want to be! In fact, the job might not even exist yet. Who knows what will happen in the future. If you see something that looks fun, be open to it. You might even be able to create a job just for you, and no one will have ever done it before.”

As I venture out to reimagine what high school can look like for girls and start my own school, my dad’s words are with me. Starting a school is not an easy undertaking and a little bit on the crazy side of risk taking. His confidence in me helped build my own confidence to be willing to take a leap into something new. 

My dad taught me that I have the power to shape and create my world. I am excited to share that with my students. 

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