Without a defined plan, a captain is simply a title. That’s not the best use of a valuable resource. As mentioned in the last post, I think one captain per 4-6 players is a great plan. This gives them a core group of players to support. We are going to talk about a few key roles that a captain could play for their team.
The captain will feel compelled to encourage his comrades to be successful. At the same time, he will feel a responsibility to model the correct behavior/actions for his team. If he does not then a subtle reminder (or not so subtle) from you can help him redirect his focus and efforts. And because of this smaller group dynamic, the captain will ensure his players are doing what they should be on and off the field. I always felt it best for a captain to solve problems, if possible, before I have to get involved. Because if I get involved, the whole team gets to enjoy the repercussions together.
Another benefit of this small group is the players will always have someone to talk to about their likes and dislikes. I liked meeting with my captains every one to two weeks to monitor the state of the team. This does not need to be formal but can be or it could be 5 minute quick chat. It’s important to know how the players feel at different points of the season. How are their bodies faring? How is our mental state after a loss or win streak? Are there certain drills we like/dislike? All of these questions and answers with my captains I take very seriously. I expect them to be the voice of their peers. While some players give me excuses and half truths, I expect and demand my captains be honest with me. Learning to speak up for their team and communicating it the right way is a life long skill.
At best, a team is the sum of its parts. However, if the team dynamic is not there, neither is the performance. The captains need to be able to encourage and cultivate a strong team bond. This can be through off the field activities and events. This can be through competition in practice. It can happen through the support of everyone during practice and games especially when things get touch. Whatever and whenever, the captains need to set the example of inclusion and team chemistry. It is cliche but important, everyone needs to be on the same page. This comes easier for some teams, and generally I found it’s easier when the captains are willing to make it a team first environment. If the captains model it, the rest of the team will follow suit.
Accountability requires the players and captains to ensure we are all playing by the team rules. Advocacy requires the captains to speak for the team and help steer the ship. Alignment requires the captains to build the best locker room culture possible. If your captains can succeed on these three jobs, no matter what the scores of the games are, your team will have a fun year. And you as a coach will be helping to develop future leaders.