Many coaches designate team captains at the beginning of each season. I myself was a team captain on multiple teams throughout my career. A speech I saw at the AASP 2014 Conference made me realize that coaches usually lack intentional leader development. Most coaches appoint team leaders at the beginning of the season and then never revisit the issue. Coaches commonly assume that team captains know what’s expected of them and how to perform their duties.
It isn’t that simple. In order to have an effective team leader, coaches need to play an active role in developing those qualities that make a great captain. When designating a leader, coaches need to first understand their own definition of leadership. Define leadership on your own before designating a captain. This will help to solidify your choice in athlete to become the team leader.
Most coaches pick a player, pull the slot machine lever, and hope they help lead the team to victory. This hit or miss strategy isn’t the most efficient. In order to get the most out of a team captain, the athlete needs to understand exactly what is expected of them. As a coach, write out the duties you expect your team captain to perform throughout the season.
What duties are you expecting your team captain to perform?
- Are you expecting them to help with instruction?
- Do you expect them to keep their teammates on task?
- Do you expect them to deal with conflicts between teammates?
- Do you expect them to be the messenger between the team and the coach?
- Do you expect them to lead warm ups?
- Do you expect them to help their teammates make smart choices on saturday night?
- Do you expect them to designate which jerseys the team wears?
Explicitly lay out what is expected of the team captain. This way, once a leader is designated, the athlete will know exactly what is expected of them and where to focus their energy.
Being a team captain is no easy task. leaders are expected to be friends with their teammates but also be looked at as a person of authority. They wear many hats; they are a friend, a mentor, an advocate for the team to the coaches, a student, an athlete, a representative,and a role model. Wearing all these hats can be a STRESSFUL position to be put in. Finding a balance between friend and captain can be a slippery slope. Great captains will always put the team before themselves, and this can sometimes cause their own personal performance to suffer. Team captains can tend to get so caught up in their role as team captain, that they lack the emotional and physical resources to put their all into enhancing their personal performance. THIS IS OKAY. As a coach you can help your team captains get through this and allow them the time to settle into their new role.
Leadership can be seen as a continuum. It is a skill that needs to be developed. Offer team captains the resources they need to fulfill their role successfully. Bring in speakers, give them articles or books, and ALWAYS give them an open door to come in and discuss their difficulties. It’s beneficial for team captains to have someone they can come to with concerns and struggles. There are situations where they will need advice and support for the decisions that need to be made. It can be helpful for team captains to have a mentor that they can confide in and discuss issues. Set aside specific meeting times for your team leader to come in and talk about what’s going on. Role playing difficult situations can really help the team leader deal with situations effectively.
Intentional leader development is an invaluable focus for teams to put forth. It’s easy to simply designate a team captain at the beginning of a season and send me them on their way to lead the rest of the season. Captains are going to need a coaches support to be the best they can be. L.E.A.D. – learn from theory, experience through practice, analyze through reflection, deepen through mentoring. Don’t leave the success of team captains up to chance, help them become the captain that will lead the team to Victory.
Quote of the day:
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” – John Quincy Adams