A line we’ve all heard over and over in sport, in work, in relationships, in life: Communication is key.
But how do we embody that? How do we take that, and make it a part of who we are, becoming more effective communicators for our teammates, colleagues, partners?
Perhaps the person to ask this question is Chelsea Currie, because she does it brilliantly. Currie, a Coxheath, Nova Scotia native, and captain of the Cape Breton Capers’ women’s soccer team, knows a thing or two about communication.
As an outgoing personality, Currie emerged as a natural leader for the Capers, but does not rely on only that. Instead, she makes an active effort to involve everyone on her team, and to make sure they are united.
“As soon as the rookies came in, we made it a goal of ours to make sure that the team met,” said Currie. “At least once a week, twice a week, when we weren’t on the field, just to get to know one another.”
Sometimes those meetings were in the form of potlucks. Others were as board game nights or team retreats; anything to get the teammates talking comfortably and freely with one another. That same comfort and freedom translates directly onto the field.
“Communication on the field is a lot easier when you’re talking to your friends. People, especially younger girls, are scared to talk on the field because they don’t want their friends to be mad at them for yelling at them,” explained Currie.
“But communication is a huge part of sports and if it’s your friends and it’s people that you’re with all the time, it can only make it better, it can only make it easier.”
Communication is also a huge aspect of coaching, of which Currie does plenty. Coaching youth in the local community, she provides young athletes with a role model, showing them that someone from their area can have great success in sport, in leadership, and in life.
When explaining her coaching style, Currie spoke of trying to put herself in their shoes. How would she like a coach to speak to her if she were twelve years old again? How would she want a drill, or a move, demonstrated or described?
That same thoughtful perspective is what makes Currie’s leadership so impressive as a teammate.
Every season, every sport, varsity athletes must go through fitness testing. Very few enjoy it, and many more dread the date their coach sets on the schedule. Last year, when the Cape Breton women’s soccer team was completing their testing, one of the athletes had yet to make her quota for one of the running tests.
She had one more chance to reach the standard, and was to do it on a day when the rest of the team was not training. Some of the team had class, but over half of them showed up to support their teammate through her testing.
“If she didn’t make the certain quota, she wasn’t going to get to play,” recalled Currie.
So what did Currie do? She offered to run with her teammate, to pace her, and to help her make sure she met that quota.
That teammate was Kelsey Hand, who is no longer playing for the Capers but who has kind memories of her former captain.
“[Chelsea] was that captain that saw the good and the potential in everyone,” said Hand. “She was also that captain that made everyone feel equal. She didn’t hold herself higher than anyone else, which is one of the best qualities for a captain to have.”
That ability to make everyone feel equal, to put herself in their shoes, is what allowed Currie to be such an excellent leader to her teammates.
And it also didn’t hurt that she finished her fifth season as her team’s points leader, with seven assists and six goals of her own, enough to have her tied for eleventh in the country.
Do as I say, not as I do does not apply here, because what Currie does and says are one and the same. She leads and she communicates, and she has created a culture or inclusion that is difficult to replicate outside of a team.
That’s a leader.