Have you ever named team captains and then after the season is underway, you wanted to take your decision back? Or have you asked the players to choose and it became a popularity contest that offered little in the way of true leadership? Yeah, I have as well which is why I tried not naming captains at all. Leadership can come from anyone at any time and naming captains at the beginning of the season can handcuff potential you may have missed or that may emerge later on.
These are a few ways opening the floor can maximize your team’s leadership potential:
When I used to name captains, I expected them to know how and when to exert leadership without having to hold their hand which led to too many missed opportunities. Instead of waiting for one or two players to step up when the situation calls for it, what you need is a team to step up and say something.
Naming captains may inadvertently cause others to keep their mouths shut because they feel like they don’t have a place to lead or encourage when an opportunity arises. Giving the team the room to do that, sets a consistent tone of leadership within each member of the group.
Leaving the leadership position open also allows for diversity in leadership communication styles. Some of your players will lead by their actions, while others will be more vocal. By allowing these to naturally fall into place, you’re also ensuring that each leader will stay true to their authentic style of leadership without feeling like they need to adopt an approach that’s not natural to them.
No Hurt Feelings
Being a team captain is a coveted position. It often translates to coach’s approval on an athlete’s strength of character, endorsement of their talent, and their ability to handle responsibility. Because that choice carries so much weight, you run the risk of others feeling let down or not good enough to be chosen when that is rarely the case.
Take the Pressure Off
When we had captains I expected, and demanded, more from them. The mental part of the job is arguably the hardest part. Seasons are long and a student-athlete has a lot on his or her plate that they are bound to have a rough stretch throughout the season. As coaches, we understand a captain may go through this, but the rest of the team may only see the captain struggling which opens them up for criticism, both inside and outside of the team. Taking the captain title and responsibility away from a single player (or two), ensures leadership focus and fortitude by any given player throughout the season.
The Team Knows
The athletes who fit the role of leadership best, will naturally surface once the season gets underway. Some will be effective in maintaining communication between the team and the coaching staff, some will be better at on-field/on-court communication and encouragement, while others may be able to relate better one-on-one with those that are struggling. The most important part about allowing leadership to happen team-wide, is that you have someone ready to step up, regardless of the situation, that the team will respond to.
Who meets with the officials before the game?:
This was a concern of mine too, so I started to rotate my athletes based on their performance from the practices leading to the game. We have PPDs (Practice Player of the Day) for every practice so we generally choose these players from the week to meet with the officials.
How do you choose your team’s leadership? If you name captains at the beginning of the season, how do you account for dips in performance through out the year?