The time when you are asked to lead might not be at the exact time you feel ready for it.

And that’s okay.

But you’ll need to learn…..quickly.

Trust me, I’ve been in the same situation.

When I first got to UCLA, I wasn’t exactly sure of the role I was stepping into. I came here because of the amazing academics and a coaching staff who cared about me as a person, not just a player.

I also had the invaluable guidance of my parents, Peter and Joyce Canada, and of my high school coach, Vanessa Nygaard, who helped find the right fit for me.

But I still wasn’t really sure of the type of player the staff planned for me to be.

All through high school I had viewed myself as a leader, but at the college level, I quickly realized that this was a whole new ball game.

As an 18-year- old, being asked to lead a group that was still learning to play together and mostly older than me, I had a hard time figuring it out.

Not only struggling to lead this group of women, I was also overwhelmed at times with all of the aspects of your first year of college outside being just a D1 athlete.

Like I said, you’re not always going to feel ready.

But with the help of our coaching staff and the increased trust we formed as a team, we finally started to see some changes. Of course we still struggled with communication at times, but the team was finally starting to work as a group.

And even though our Pac-12 tournament run fell short against Stanford, I rediscovered the thing that was most important to my game:

Having fun.

Slowly, I was starting to realize that being a leader isn’t always just about being serious. it was actually more about finding a balance between fun and intensity.

So as I headed into that offseason, determined to improve myself as a leader and a player, I was blessed with a new opportunity by playing with Team USA.

On this team, was another group of girls that didn’t have much time to play with each other, so there were the same struggles with communication, chemistry, and leadership.

As the point guard, this responsibility fell again on my shoulders.

So throughout that summer, with the mentorship of Coach Tanya Warren, I worked on my leadership while still finding a way to enjoy the game that I love.

But heading back to campus for the start of my sophomore season, just starting to feel like I had the hang of things, I had another challenge put on my plate.

I guess challenge isn’t really the right word to describe it, but being selected by my teammates as captain for the group was exactly that.

Now, not only did I have the responsibility of leading our style of play, but as an entire team as well.

I was honored with the selection, but still didn’t feel ready for this new position. Yes, I had put in the work that summer, but it was a responsibility I wasn’t quite sure I deserved yet.

Looking back, it’s sometimes better when you aren’t sure you’re ready.

Now, as I’m playing in my senior season, I’m embracing the leadership role.

Trying to teach the younger girls and give them the advice that helped me, I’m enjoying getting to see that same transition in them, too.

And even as I hit milestones on the court, what I am most focused on is being the best all-around player and leader I can be. The stats are great, but I really just want to embrace every moment and help our team win any way possible.

That’s just the way my parents raised me. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So if you’re ever overwhelmed, feeling like you aren’t ready to lead, don’t worry. Most of us were in those same shoes.

Just remember that in your new role, you’ll need to find fun in the game you love just as much as you’ll need to set the level of intensity.

As for the rest, you’re just going to have to grow into it.

Jordin Canada | Contributor