How Do You Pick Your Team Captains?

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I’ve done it all when it comes to team captains.  The team picks.  The coaches pick.  A combination of both of those.  I’ve even gone without captains.  I believe in team leadership and the athlete’s ability to manage each other and keep each other motivated through the normal highs and lows of a season.

But how do we stack the deck in the favor of team captains who will, you know, actually be good leaders?  According to How To Build A Team That Works by Tony Robbins, there are some things we can help our teams look for when voting and characteristics our captains can aspire to once they’re voted captain.

Some questions we can prep our team with before they vote for captains:

  • Can they do the job? Do they have the respect of their teammates?  Because if their teammates aren’t willing to follow them…can they actually be called a leader?
  • Will they do the job well long-term? No matter the sport, the season is long. No matter how well your team is doing, you’re going to have some downs that go along with the ups.  No matter how motivated the team, they’re going to have flat practices.  Can your team captains help the group through the tough times?
  • Are they the right team fit? I talked before about personality types and how important it is to know your team’s dominant personality and what it could be missing. If you’ve got a strong group of leaders who aren’t keen on getting the younger athlete’s opinions, you may want to stack the deck for your more collaborative personalities.

Here are qualities of good team leaders:

  • Envision an Outcome: Can they help the team come up with season goals and keep the group on track?   A lot of us coaches think this is all up to us, but I’d disagree.  We’re not with our teams more than we’re with them.  We need the captains to help us here!
  • Understand Others: Here I go beating the personality type drum again, but this is crucial. People are different and respond to situations differently.  Our team leaders can help us with team conflicts by understanding this dynamic.
  • Inspire Others: I’ve had players who inspired their teammates through their words, they could get everyone fired up for conditioning…which is almost a miracle. And I’ve had athletes who were inspirational without opening their mouth.  They basically shamed everyone into working hard because they worked so hard.
  • Understand Themselves: I don’t want captains who are pretending to be someone they’re not.  For example, you don’t want your quiet leader trying to lead a rallying cry at game time.  They’ll be stressed out and they won’t come across as believable to their teammates.  My general advice for captains is, “Do you”, with the caveat that they’re doing all of these other things.

Giving our athletes the tools they need to be leaders worth following has got to be a top priority for coaches.