First Day Thoughts: Lessons in Leadership

This morning, over 300 students streamed into our brand new Assembly Hall for the Middle School Opening Convocation. It was awe-inspiring to watch our community gather together in this long-awaited space.

I took the opportunity to share a few thoughts about leadership, especially as it relates to our middle school motto: Wherever we are, we strive to leave a place better than we found it.

Here’s an excerpt of my remarks:

Let’s talk about the word “leader” for a moment. We use that term a lot. But what does it really mean? In my experience, leaders do two things: they set an example and they also inspire others to make a difference. This summer, two leaders inspired me, and I wanted to share their story in the hope that they will inspire you, too.

How many of you watched the final match of the Women’s World Cup?  

If you did, you witnessed something incredible.  In the first 16 minutes, Team Captain Carli Lloyd scored three consecutive goals. We call that a “hat trick.”  In fact, Lloyd kicked one of those goals from midfield — a full 55 yards!

This feat alone would have been enough to secure her legacy in sports history.

But I’d like to talk about something else that Carli Lloyd did that stood out even more. In the final minutes of the game, she removed her blue captain’s armband – the symbol of her leadership — and placed it on the arm of her teammate, Abby Wambach. (You can see a picture of the moment here.)

Why did Lloyd do this? And what did it mean?

To answer that question, you’ll need to know a little bit more about Abby Wambach. Wambach is a legend: a two-time Olympic gold medalist who holds the world record for the most international goals scored by a member of a national team — male or female.

But she also spent much of this year’s World Cup season — her last World Cup season — on the bench, serving as a substitute. I suspect that there might be some people who would feel sad, frustrated, or even betrayed by her coach’s decision. After all, she had been such a prominent player and leader for so many years.

So how did Wambach react to this new role? Here’s what’s extraordinary: she remained entirely dedicated to her team, rallying them from the sidelines with her trademark shouts of encouragement and words of wisdom. She took younger players under her wing and gave them confidence and support.

Abby Wambach was more interested in supporting her team than she was in promoting herself. And people took notice. One columnist shared:

You know what makes Wambach such a tremendous athlete, and what has lifted her above the sport and made her an icon?

It’s the fact that she has scored more international goals than anyone in history but was fine with her teammates stealing her spotlight. She showed grace and great character . . .

So let’s return to Carli Lloyd’s decision. Before the final match against Japan, Lloyd shared this about Wambach: “She has been a true leader. We wouldn’t be where we are without her.”

And so, with the world watching and the clock ticking, Lloyd removed the symbol of her leadership from her arm and shared it with Wambach.

Here is the lesson I took from this moment:

Sometimes leaders stand out in front, mobilizing the team and making key plays at clutch time. And sometimes leaders stand on the sidelines, offering guidance and encouragement that brings out the best in their teammates.

But no matter where we stand, everyone has a contribution to make. And everyone’s contribution is important. Don’t ever forget that. You have an opportunity to make a difference. Sometimes you get to be the one who scores the goal. Sometimes you get to be the one on the sidelines cheering your friends. Great leaders are always looking to elevate those around them and can shine from anywhere.

So wherever you stand, stand up for each other. We are all on the same team. We are all part of this special community. This space reminds us of that – this is the Middle School Assembly Hall. This is where we come together, bound by a common idea that we can leave a place better than we found it. Strive for that ideal, and I promise you that you will learn something about yourself and your potential.


  • Could not agree more. TVS and the Middle School, especially, are very lucky to have you as their leader.

    Yasher koach (YAH-shehyr KOH-ahkh) which quite literally means straight strength. It is a way of congratulating someone for performing a good deed (a mitzvah or mitzvah-like act). I look forward to your continuing to do good things. I also realize all the effort that you continue to put into your position.

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