UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Badgers' best athletes also their best leaders

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The best players aren't always the best leaders.

But it helps when they are - just like it helps when they have a presence.

"Presence is always good,'' suggested athletic director Barry Alvarez, the UW football coach for 16 seasons. "But sometimes you don't have a presence.''

That's definitely not the case with Meghan Duggan and Jordan Taylor, the UW's Female and Male athletes of the year, respectively. They've both earned that respect, too, Alvarez said.

"Meghan lights up a room,'' he noted. "I've been really impressed with her anytime I've been around her. She's legitimate. You can see her teammates hang on every word she says.

"Jordan is one of the most special kids we've ever had here,'' Alvarez went on. "There's a magnetism about him.  Kids follow him because he does thing the right way and backs up what he says.''

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Duggan, the senior forward, and Taylor, the junior guard, are not only among the best players on their respective teams - if not the best - but they have "it,'' which so often translates to presence.

"I've always defined leadership,'' Alvarez said, "as someone who can get a group of people to do a common job or something they couldn't do without someone organizing it.

"You've got people playing a game; people running a team, you need someone - Hayden Fry used to call them bell-cows - to take the rest of the people in a certain direction.

"Someone can say all the right things - they can yell and scream - but if that person turns around after practice and doesn't live the right life, their teammates know they're an imposter.''

"Meghan Duggan and Jordan Taylor are as legit as it gets.''

One of my favorite examples of Duggan's leadership emerged before the Badgers faced Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA quarterfinals. Duggan took ownership of the room, the locker room.

Freshman goalie Alex Rigsby recalled how Duggan addressed the players before taking the ice.

"She told us, 'Listen, this is what we're going to do and this is how it's going to happen and we're going out there and we're going to win,''' Rigsby said.

Explained Duggan, "I always try to get the team ready for the big game to make sure we're all on the same page and prepared for the task at hand.''

Mission accomplished; the Badgers beat Duluth.

Duggan later detailed her message.

"I just told the girls, 'Let's not let this one slip away,''' she said. "We had 60 minutes ahead of us (against Duluth) and we were basically in control of our destiny.

"I didn't want a minute to go by where anyone questioned, 'What if I did this? Or what if I did that?' I just kind of instilled that in their head.

"I let them know we're an incredible team. We have everything that we need - as long as we play our game and play up to our potential - to do great things.''

Mission accomplished, again. The Badgers went on to win the national championship.

Duggan shares many positive qualities with Taylor.

"Remember that it's a sport that I love,'' she said of hockey. "It's a game and I play it for fun as much as sometimes the games are life and death for me. I want to make sure we're having fun.''

That would be the personification of Taylor.

"I remind myself and the guys what we're supposed to be doing,'' he said. "But I'm also reminding them that it's still just a game and I try to keep them loose that way.

"It's a fine line - staying focused and staying loose. We play because we have fun. But we also play because we want to win. You have to find that even balance.

"As a point guard,'' he also said, "you're looked to be the leader, the floor general ... but a team is a collective unit and we're all working together to try and reach the same goals and win.''

Taylor shares many positive qualities with Duggan, including this trait, "Opponents can respect me - or better respect me - for wanting to come out there and kick their butts around the court.''

Or ice.

Now that's having a presence.
ON WISCONSIN