Be Prepared

Learning to Lead Through Service and Rugby

February 7, 2019

The Service Academies are well known for creating the next generation of leaders. The rigorous physical and mental training that these individuals undergo provide them with the life skills and experience to excel in both the military and in civilian life. At these prestigious academies, where nearly everyone who attends has the character and personality to be a team leader, the captains selected to lead their respective rugby programs are special. Former Army West Point captain Jake Lachina and the Naval Academy’s women’s team captain, Elizabeth Pittman, discuss how their time at the service academy and their rugby experience helped them prepare for life and develop their leadership skills.

Learning to become a leader at a young age is a difficult task. Leadership comes in many different forms and styles and its definition can be different to various people.

“Leadership is setting the best example that you can and practicing what you preach,” said Pittman.

“Leadership means listening to everyone around you, absorbing the situation and effectively communicating the next action based on all of the information provided,” defined Lachina.

Jake Lachina of Army West Point

Both captains indicated that peer leadership, like being the leader of a rugby team, is one of the most difficult forms of leadership to master. Getting the respect and buy-in from your counterparts on a team, can take time. At places, like the military academies, peer leadership is something that is stressed in the classroom and learned in training.

“My time at West Point taught me how important peer leadership is,” said Lachina. “Learning how to communicate effectively with people from all different walks of life is critical to becoming an effective leader.”

“We had some formal training in the classroom and that gives you skills to put in your toolbox. More importantly, the academies give you the opportunity to practice all of these skills. We had opportunities to lead each other every day,” Pittman added.

In addition to the leadership training in the classroom, rugby provided some leadership lessons. The adversity that they have faced on the field has helped them better learn how to handle difficult situations.

Elizabeth Pittman of the United States Naval Academy

“Rugby has taught me about toughness and mental toughness because there are many times in a rugby game that you are going to be tired or flustered but you have to put your own emotions aside to lead the rest of your team,” Pittman stated.”

“Rugby has taught me a lot about leadership. When you are not playing well or you are tired, it has taught me to compose myself and be able to effectively communicate with my teammates. Those skills will transcend rugby,” Lachina said.

Both members believe that any team member could be the captain of their respective teams. The opportunity to be the leader was a privilege that both members wear with pride.

“This opportunity really challenged me to be my best self when I lead my teammates.  I prided myself on always leading by example,” Pittman indicated.

“I was truly humbled to be the captain of this team. Any one of these guys would have made a great captain and I am truly blessed to have this honor,” Lachina concluded.

Leadership is a skill that is constantly developed and a work in progress. With an education from the Service Academies and life skills learned from rugby, it is no doubt that members of the Academy rugby teams will be a part of the path forward.

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