Did You Touch It?

It was a critical point of the volleyball set. On a controversial play involving my daughter, the opposing team had tied the semi-final game. The ref said my daughter touched the ball before it fell out of bounds. It did not look like that from the vantage point of most.

Emotions of anger and indignation erupted from our coaches, our players and our fans (by fans I mean crazy sport parents), all directed towards the referee. The tension and hostility was palpable.

The coach snapped at my daughter “did you touch it?”

With what I can only describe as a calm confidence, my daughter answered with one word, “yes”.

The coach calmed down.

My daughter then quickly gathered the team, they all broke from the huddle calm.

As fans, we took our cues from the players, and we calmed down.

What happened next…they won the semi-final match and went on to win the gold. 🥇

In a mere 30 seconds I witnessed a leadership lesson that I will not forget. My daughter demonstrated three critical leadership skills:

  1. Integrity: doing what is right over what is easy – she easily could have said nothing but she didn’t.
  2. Accountability: taking her 100% responsibility for the situation – “I touched it”.
  3. Reality Testing: able to see the situation for what it really was and not a distorted version that cast her and the team as victims – she explains to her teammates that the volleyball game is tied, it was the right call, we’re playing great.

In 30 seconds as I observed my daughter, I saw our roles reverse; she became the teacher and I became the student (as did others).

During the car ride home, while we celebrated different plays involving hits, blocks, passes, digs and serves, I said the play I was most proud of was her leadership in that moment.

Leadership has a ripple effect; it can either move you towards a gold or it can leave you off the podium.