The Struggles of Supervising Your Peers

Like many college students, my best friends are the people I’ve met through my campus involvement. When I was hired at the Student Union, I was quickly welcomed into the “SU Family” and I made new friends from all walks of life. After a year of working for the Student Union, I moved my way into a student managerial role and had to supervise my peers.

One of my good friends and I both applied for the same job, so lots of tension was created when I got the position and they did not. Obviously, when people apply for jobs, they think they are the right choice. When my friend and I applied, we both thought we were the right choice. After I got it, I started to question if my friend might have been right. Whenever I didn’t know things, I was afraid to ask because I didn’t want to seem incompetent. I felt self conscious, like everybody was testing me to see if I would succeed.

Thankfully, I had a very helpful boss who showed me through the written job responsibilities along with the new emotional ones. He reminded me that I was chosen for a reason, which was something I often forgot. I also created allies within my supervisees, and found people who would support me. One of the scariest things about being someone’s boss is knowing people probably talk about you behind your back. By finding supportive team members, I knew I would have people to keep those conversations positive and spread good messages through the rest of the employees. Soon, I formed a great relationship with everybody who worked for me, and I now feel very comfortable at work. I absolutely love when my employees come to me with problems, because I feel trusted and liked. Having a good relationship with people who report to you is very important, because then they understand you are making decisions with their best interest in mind. When there are policy changes, my employees trust my decisions, rather than criticize them. That atmosphere of trust and friendliness makes coming to work every day something I look forward to.

Not all positions are paid positions, though, where people’s jobs are on the line when they don’t listen to you. Sometimes authoritative positions are less black and white, making it more difficult to find the perfect balance like I did at work.

The entire time I’ve been a student at UCF, I have also been a UCF Majorette. Baton twirling is very important to me and I can’t imagine what it would be like if I didn't twirl for my schol.

My freshman year, there were five rookie majorettes, including myself. Some of us knew each other from competitions while some of us had never met. Regardless, we instantly became great friends. Naturally, the rookies stuck together and had each other’s backs while we navigated our first year of being college twirlers. We all shared a passion for baton twirling, and we used it to create a very successful team dynamic.

My sophomore year, I was named one of the captains, along with a returning junior. In the beginning, I had lots of ambitions. I wanted to create an open environment where everybody could express their ideas. All of the twirlers on the team come from very different twirling backgrounds, all of which are valuable. Every member had helpful tips, knew unique tricks, and most importantly, wanted to feel comfortable when performing on the field at football games. Everybody’s opinion was important, and I wanted to make sure they knew that as my team and as my friends. I wanted to be a captain that empowered my team and made them feel confident about their performances. Since our team dynamic was so great the previous year, I had complete faith in our ability to work together. I was looking at the position through rose-colored glasses, not seeing all the frustrations that were also headed my way.

College twirling teams are a little different from other sports teams in that the coach does not work with the team full time. Our coach comes once a week to choreograph routines for us, and comes to every game to calm the nerves and help us with whatever we need. However, this schedule does not always work out perfectly. Sometimes if there was a chance of practice being rained out, it was not worth the time or gas for our coach to drive to Orlando. Since coaches are not at every practice, the captains tend take on a similar role. Captains choreograph routines and run the practices, which can be a lot of pressure for a young adult. I am no stranger to teaching baton, but being in charge of your peers is entirely different. Many of the girls I am technically in charge of, are also girls I compete with and/or against during competition season. In most situations, we are considered equals, but on the band field, we are not. The transition is a little awkward for everyone involved.

It did not take long to realize there was much more to being a student staff member was much more than encouraging my team. 99% of the time, my team is amazing. We have so much fun together doing what we love, and I would not trade being a UCF Majorette for anything in the world. However, any sport comes with difficulties, frustrations, and rules. I had to be the enforcer of the rules. I had to be the killjoy when the team was getting too rowdy. I had to be the choreographer who sometimes makes tricks that people don’t like. I had to be the know-it-all that corrected people whenever the routines went wrong. All of a sudden, I had so many hats to wear, many of them negative, and I sometimes became confused and defeated.

Like any other role, I was in the period of self-consciousness. I carried the frustrations of the entire team home with me after every practice, and it became too much for me to hold. I hung on to the eye-rolls, and the snappy comments that people occasionally made towards me when things didn’t go as planned. I knew none of my teammates meant to hurt my feelings, but I was the most logical target for their frustrations. Even though they were able to flip a switch and return to normal as soon as practice ended, I clung to many of those feelings and started to believe they didn’t like me any more. I would leave practice feeling lonely and filled with self-doubt.

It took almost the entire first year of being a captain to learn how to flip the switch more easily. Now, in my junior year, I am living with two other girls on the team, which has been one of my best college experiences yet. Being able to form even stronger relationships off the field has increased our ability to work together on the field. We have a better understanding of each other, which means we respect each other’s twirling opinions. We now build off each other’s ideas instead of compete with them. Every once in a while, I still hang on to the eye-rolls and get hurt by them. But then, I come home to my smiling roommates and remember the way they love me and put our friendship first. I no longer fear that my team doesn’t like me; I now trust that they understand the hats I have to wear.

Being a leader of your best friends is uncomfortable and sometimes requires thick skin. Every role has a transition period, but eventually all the kinks get worked out. Like any tough situation, good friends make it better. I feel very lucky to have such incredible teammates who make my job a little easier. I remind myself that the root of our emotions is our love for twirling, and I am proud to be on a team that cares so much about their performance. Every practice, I leave having learned something from my teammates that helps me grow as a captain and as a person. Every interaction at work shows me how to be a better leader and advocate for my employees. There are lessons to be learned in every leadership position, all making you stronger for the future. I keep in mind that there are exponentially more good moments than bad, which reminds me how lucky I am to have the positions I have. Despite the small bumps in the road, my leadership positions at the Student Union and with the UCF Majorettes are helping me grow and defining my leadership style. Because of the other majorettes and my SU family, I am becoming the person I want to be.

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