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home | Sample Articles | 7 Strategies to Select Your Team Cap . . .

7 Strategies to Select Your Team Captains - Part 1
Jeff Janssen, Janssen Sports Leadership Center
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Trying to figure out how to determine your team captains for the upcoming season?

Coaches often ask me the question, "What's the best way to determine my team leaders?" There are a variety of ways to select your team leaders, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Because each program and each season is unique, the real key is to find the best way for your team for this specific season.

Here are seven strategies you can use to find the best leaders for the critical captain role, and the pros and cons of each selection method along with my advice.

1. Let your team vote.
Most coaches allow their team to vote for team captains. The coach hands out the ballots, asks the team to list their choices, tallies up the votes, and announces the winner(s).

Pros: The advantages of this selection method are that you allow your team input on deciding their leaders. Rather than arbitrarily imposing a captain on them from above, you show your athletes that you respect them enough to allow them to choose their leader(s). And by giving them a choice, you also are much more likely to find a leader the team is willing to follow.

Cons: While there are many benefits to allowing your team to vote for captains, there are two potentially problematic drawbacks. The first is that the team might select someone who the coaching staff does not think would make a good captain. The person could be more of a "ring leader" than a leader. If you solely let your team decide the captain(s) by voting, you might regret who they select.

The second problem with allowing the team to vote is that the captain selection process might be more of a popularity contest. Here again the athletes might pick someone who is popular in a social setting, but does not have the necessary skills to be a leader on the field/court or in the locker room. If you are allowing your team to vote, it is very important to gauge the maturity level of your athletes to determine if they have the foresight and understanding to actually pick a true leader.

Jeff's Advice: Think twice about having a team vote solely determine your team captains if your athletes are not mature or sophisticated enough to pick an effective leader. Additionally, if you are having your team vote, invest the time on the front end to have your athletes really think through what it takes to be an effective leader. You might transform the selection into a short team building activity and have your team discuss and list the characteristics so that everyone is clear.

Many coaches have told me that they also have their team look at the Team Leadership Evaluation, listed in The Team Captain's Leadership Manual, to help their athletes gain a full understanding of what it means to be a leader before voting. Further, some coaches like Nebraska Softball Coach Rhonda Revelle have their athletes apply for a captain position - then the interested leaders get time in front of the team to explain why they feel they would be an effective captain for the program. All of these ways help ensure that your athletes put some serious thought and consideration in selecting the leaders of the team. When selecting team captains, follow the adage of "measure twice and cut once."

A further variation of the team voting is to allow the coaches to have a vote as well. Some coaches even weigh their votes more - meaning a coach's vote counts as two to three times as much as an athlete's vote. While the weighting of the votes might help balance out the smaller numbers of the coaching staff in comparison to the athletes, it also sends a potentially unfortunate message that a coach's opinion is worth more than the athletes.

2. Coaching staff selects.
The second most popular selection method is that the coaching staff names the captain(s).

Pros: The obvious advantage to this one for the coaching staff is that you get to work with someone who you respect, trust, and feel will do a great job. You also won't have to worry about the captain selection becoming an athlete popularity contest - or the athletes choosing someone who would make a poor leader for your team.

Cons: The potential problem with having the coaches select the captain(s) is that you might select someone who the team doesn't really respect or follow. You might pick one of your favorite athletes - but for whatever reason, this person has not fully connected with the rest of the team. Further, by you imposing a captain on the team without their input, you might actual hurt your captain's platform of leadership. The team might have the tendency to view the person as a "Coach's Pet" and be less likely the follow the coach-named leader.

Jeff's Advice: It is important to allow your athletes at least some input on who their leader might be. Unless you are fully confident that your choice will be almost unanimously supported by the team, avoid imposing a leader on your team solely determined by the coaching staff. Instead, work together with your athletes to find someone who will be respected by both coaches and athletes.

3. Team Nominates - Coach Endorses.
A hybrid of the first two, some coaches allow their athletes to basically nominate which teammates they look to for team leadership, then the coach gets to scrutinize and ultimately endorse their choice(s). For example, in The Team Captain's Leadership Manual I have included a sheet called the Top Three Leaders List. The 12-question list is designed to have the athletes indirectly explore who they feel exhibits leadership qualities by asking them a variety of questions including:

List the Top Three people who you trust the most:

List the Top Three people who have the best relationships with their teammates:

List the Top Three people who are willing to confront and hold their teammates accountable:

As you might imagine if you did this with your team, certain athletes' names will likely be listed across several questions. It's these athletes then that your team already sees as displaying positive leadership qualities and behaviors. In essence then, you give your athletes a chance to identify who they look to as leaders and value their input in the process. After compiling the various lists made by the team and coaching staff, you will likely see who the team looks to for leadership.

You can then come back to the team and say by the results of this exercise it is clear that this team looks to the following people as leaders. You can then either leave it at that or take it the next step and officially name them as captains.

Pros: The Team Nominates - Coach Endorses selection method should give you the best of both worlds. You provide your athletes with input on who they believe has exhibited leadership behaviors - but you also provide yourself with the latitude and discretion to make the final choice.

Cons: The primary disadvantage to this option is when the team and the coaching staff aren't on the same page. Your team might list some individuals that they look to for leadership - but you as a coaching staff might not feel comfortable endorsing them as leaders. Fortunately with the quantity and quality of questions that make up the Top Three Leaders List, this rarely happens.

Jeff's Advice: This is one of my favorite ways of determining captains because it provides both coaches and athletes with a way to provide valuable input on the critical captain selection process. Athletes get to have their say on who they respect through the Top Three Leaders List - and coaches are allowed the freedom and flexibility to make the final determination. In the vast majority of cases, the coach's choice is simply an endorsement of what the athletes already listed.

And, even if you don't use the Top Three Leaders List to help select your team captains, it will still be an interesting exercise that can give you tremendous insights into your team.

For four more strategies on how to select your team captains, our Championship Coaches Network members can click on Part 2 of the article below.

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·  7 Strategies to Select Your Team Captains - Part 2