I remember the first time that I ever skied. I was kind of a late bloomer hitting the slopes. Skiing is an expensive sport. And, growing up, my sisters and I didn’t play expensive sports like ice hockey, golf, and skiing. The equipment was too costly.
I was in eighth grade when my buddy Donnie Ward invited me up to Sterling Forest Ski Resort outside Tuxedo, New York. Sterling Forest is a small ski resort with just four ski lifts, eight trails, and only 400 feet of vertical descent – but back then the mountain seemed HUGE. We started out on the Bunny Hill, then worked our way over to Tiger Pass and the Rainbow trails. By lunchtime I was going down the only black diamond trail called Racing Hill – tucked head first all the way down. It was love at first slope!
I worked at McDonald’s for extra cash, so I could buy my first set of skis. In ninth grade I went skiing after school and on the weekends whenever I could catch a ride up to the slopes. By my sophomore year I tried out for the Suffern High School Varsity Ski Racing Team. Only ten guys made the Varsity Racing Team, with two alternates. I made the second alternate spot.
Junior year I made the team and raced the giant slalom in the seventh spot. My senior year I was named Captain of the team and raced in the fourth spot. Our coach was an older gentleman named Ralph Consiglio. I remember when he named me captain. I went up to him after practice and told him I didn’t think I deserved to be captain. Told him that there were a few guys on the race team that were much faster than me. Much better skiers. And then Coach Consiglio said something to me that I never forgot. “To be Captain, Tommy, you don’t have to be the best skier. You have to be the best person.”
I’ve learned a lot about Heart-Led Leaders since I wrote the book nearly three years ago. Heart-Led Leaders understand what Coach Consiglio taught me thirty-two years ago – leadership is not about the position. It is about the person.
I would argue that Derek Jeter is one of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game. The New York Yankees drafted Jeter out of high school in 1992, and he debuted in the major leagues at age 21 in 1995. The following year, he became the Yankees’ starting shortstop, won the Rookie of the Year Award, and helped the team win the 1996 World Series. Jeter continued to contribute during the team’s championship seasons of 1998-2000. On June 3, 2003 Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner named Jeter the captain of the Yankees, following eight long seasons without a captain. Jeter served as the Yankees’ team captain until his retirement in 2014.
A five-time World Series champion, Jeter is regarded as a central figure of the Yankees’ success of the late 1990s and early 2000s for his hitting, base running, fielding, and leadership. His accolades include 14 All-Star selections, five Gold Glove Awards, five Silver Slugger Awards, two Hank Aaron Awards, and a Roberto Clemente Award. Jeter was the 28th player to reach 3,000 hits and finished his career ranked sixth in MLB history in career hits and first among shortstops. In 2017, the Yankees retired his uniform number 2. (Source: Wikipedia)
Teammates and opponents alike regard Jeter as a consummate professional and one of the best players of his generation. Even Boston Red Sox players and fans, who were born to envy the Yankees, have a hard time saying anything negative about Derek Jeter. Not because he was a Most Valuable Player. But because he is a Most Valuable Person.
My son Tate is turning ten years old next week. He was born with a hockey stick in his hands – skating since he was three. Tate has a plaque with all of Wayne Gretzky’s hockey records in his room. At bedtime Tate likes to read all Gretsky’s NHL records. And then he says, “I just want to know all the records I’m going to break one day!”
Tate has been playing on the same team, with the same great kids, since he was five. His hockey coach is a former Russian superstar with the last name Krivokrasov. Coach Krivo, as the kids call him, has never picked a captain for Tate’s team. Until last week.
When Tate came back into the locker room he had a huge smile on his face. And all Tate’s teammates were congratulating him. Coach named him captain. I started to cry. I could not have been prouder of my son.
When we got to the parking lot, Tate told me he was surprised he was named captain since there are a handful of kids on the team who are faster skaters. Better hockey players. And then I remembered what Coach Consiglio shared with me three decades ago: “To be Captain, Tate, you don’t have to be the best player. You have to be the best person.”