If you search for a book on leadership on Amazon.com, it will provide 60,000 results, so obviously there are a lot of ways to go about having individuals guide a group.
A football team, according to BYU assistant head coach Ed Lamb, has elements of leadership that come from the coaching staff and elements that come from the players.
“From a coaching perspective, we have to coach like leadership is 100 percent initiated by the coaches,” Lamb said. “But we want the players to approach it that it is 100 percent their character and motivation and leadership qualities. In the end, it’s probably somewhere in the middle.”
Many players step into leadership roles on their own, but Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said sometimes athletes need to be pushed to reach their potential.
“It’s important for us to throw them into leadership roles as well,” Sitake said. “I don’t think you have to just sit and wait for leaders to emerge. I think that would be nice but for us we had to throw guys into leadership roles. It wasn’t really comfortable for a lot of them but I think it’s OK for them to overcome the discomfort because I think they can have a lot of growth.”
He talked about senior offensive lineman Austin Hoyt, who likely wouldn’t naturally establish himself as a vocal leader but has been asked to do it for the team.
“He’s stepped up,” Sitake said. “You can tell with the way he is leading the guys. With the way he prepares and the way he looks, you can tell he is ready for his senior campaign leading the guys.”
BYU senior defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi said being willing to take on the role of being at the forefront is part of making a team as good as it can be.
“For me, you have to do it because everyone needs it,” Kaufusi said. “It’s not a matter if I want to do it. If there is a need for it, then I have to do because if I don’t, I’m being a selfish teammate. If I’m not willing to step up and help guys move along, that’s on me and it can make the whole team bad.”
He said the best part about being a senior leader now is that it has shown him how much he has grown.
“I do know a lot,” Kaufusi said. “I’m not the new guy coming in from the basketball team. I’m the old guy. That’s been really good about it.”
The players want to demand the most out of each other because that’s how they take ownership of the outcome on the field.
“Coach Sitake always talks about how this is our team,” senior linebacker Zayne Anderson said. “We as seniors take that on and really set the tone for everyone. We determine how we want this season to be.”
A big part of that is being accountable — to each other, to the coaches and to themselves.
Junior cornerback Chris Wilcox said his unit has been set up to self-evaluate to better understand how they need to improve.
“We are watching a ton of film and we are doing a new thing now where we have a sheet and we mark all the errors we have,” Wilcox said. “We come the next day and report it to the coach. He’ll check back with us to see if that is correct. Every time we watch film, we are learning new things about what we messed up on so we can correct it the next day.”
In the running back room, freshman Zach Katoa said there is no time for losing focus with running backs coach AJ Steward.
“You are never safe in a meeting,” Katoa said. “You’ve always got to be on your toes. He’s always calling you out, making sure you are paying attention. If he gives you an assignment, he’ll definitely follow up the next day and if you didn’t do it, you better have a good reason because he’s going to question you on that.”
But while coaches instruct at one level, Kaufusi firmly believes in the value of players pushing each other to greatness as well.
“The biggest thing we are on each other about right now is accountability,” Kaufusi said. “No one is safe. I think of us as the Rocky Balboas, so we have to get on each other to get where we want to go.”
Daily Herald sports reporter Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or [email protected] Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.