What is a team captain?
Many team sports have one or more captains on the team. Some even have a leadership council. The team captain is not your star player. The team captain is the athlete the team looks up to. You embody the qualities you believe are important and the team member who takes leadership and responsibility in the dressing room. This article is about choosing a team captain, what qualities he should have and what to do with him.
How to select a team captain
Choosing the right person to be the team captain can have a tremendous positive impact on the team. A good team captain can help keep the team focused, build team cohesion, help athletes stay accountable, and reinforce the coach’s message. On the other hand, choosing the wrong person to captain the team can tear the team apart and lead to a long season.
So how do you choose a team captain? The three most popular methods are to let the team choose the captain, let the coach choose the captain, or a combination of both.
This seems like the obvious way to choose a team captain. After all, the captain is one of the players and their leader. For many trainers, however, this approach is fraught with danger. Eventually, it can degenerate into a popularity contest, and the “wrong” person can be crowned captain by the team. This can be mitigated by setting criteria, developing a rubric, discussing with the team what qualities the captain should have, etc. But even with that, there’s always a chance this will go wrong.
This also seems like an obvious way to choose a team captain. After all, the coach knows what qualities he is looking for in a team captain. In this way, the coach can ensure that the “right” person is the team captain.
This approach is also fraught with challenges. First, the coach doesn’t know the players and the players know the players. Just because a player seems to have the right qualities around the coach doesn’t mean they’re good at doing the right thing away from the coach. Second, just because the coach wants that person to captain doesn’t mean the team wants that. There can be issues with the buy-in, which can affect team cohesion.
Team nominated, coach chooses
With this last approach, we get the best of both worlds. The team receives input and selects candidates it believes in, and from among them the coach can select the player who most closely resembles the qualities the coach believes are important in a team captain.
What makes a good team captain?
We know we want a team captain and we have a plan to select that person. Well, what kind of person are we looking for? For me, the following qualities are indispensable in a team captain. First, a captain must be competitive. Second, a captain must be a hard worker. Third, and this must not be overlooked, you must be a good person. Fourth, they need to care about how the team is performing. After all, they should be a model teammate. In other words, the team captain should embody the positive qualities of your team.
How to use a team captain?
So you have the right person as team captain, what do you do with that person? Team captains can have multiple roles on a team.
First, the team captain should be able to communicate the team’s temperature to the coach. This can be difficult to hear as sometimes it contradicts what the trainer wants to hear. This is important because the team captain is one of the players.
Second, there are times when players need to solve the team’s problems. This can be things like lack of energy, constant mistakes, lack of focus, etc. When this happens, a single meeting of players isn’t a bad idea. Your team captain can help drive and guide it. Nothing holds an athlete accountable like a colleague.
Third, I like to use the team captain to do pre-training and pre-game warm-up exercises. As a coach, I have a lot to do to prepare for training sessions and games, which relieves me a bit. This can easily be done by doing the same things as warming up before practice and games to become part of a routine.
After all, the captain is the leader of the team. The athlete energizes the team, helps them stay focused and accountable, and serves as a cheerleader when everything falls into place.
A team captain can occupy a critical position in a team. It can save a coach a lot of work. A captain can help the coach understand what’s going on in a dressing room and enable the coach to win over the team. Besides that, a bad team captain can be a team killer. When this happens, when the captain is disruptive, bad for the team, loving drama too much, etc., a coach need not be afraid to make a mark and make a difference.