A good team captain is just as important has having a good coach. A captains responsibilities stretch far beyond the role of a field general; he/she assume the role of motivator, authority, friend, enemy, guard, idol and warrior. A captain is responsible – more than anyone else on the field – for the teams successes and failures. It is for this reason that one of the most important decisions a coach will make is who will assume the captains armband.
I’ve played on many teams throughout my career where the privilege of being team captain was a popularity contest. The players who were best skilled were awarded the armband as if it were a no-brainer for the coach. I never could formulate a reason why, but I just knew something was wrong with this approach. More than just puzzle me, it frustrated me beyond words.
One year it all made sense to me. I played on a team of players that were all much older than me. I was put in a defensive role along one of the more experienced players on the team. Technically speaking, he wasn’t very good at all. I remember thinking to myself after our first few training sessions: “how is this guy captain?” Then came our first game…
It was early in the first half and the opposing forward came and caught me on a late slide tackle. Full of rage, I jumped off the ground yelling. Our captain came over and pulled me away and told me to calm down. Once he had settled me – and I’ll never forget this – he told me to “focus on the game, I’ll take care of him.” The way he said it sent a sense of ease throughout my body that I can’t explain. I really did forget about the situation because he truly had me believe that he would take care of it. Needless to say, 15 minutes later he hit the forward in question to the ground in a hard tackle, kicked the ball away, then turned around and just looked at him on the ground. No words had to be said, the forward knew exactly what was going on.
Now, i’m not an advocate of revenge and dirty play, but I am an advocate of demanding respect from your teammates and the opposing team as well. No one has to like you, but they should respect you.
The most impressive part of all this is that he didn’t only do this for me, he did this for every person on the team. Every time someone hit a player on our team, it didn’t matter where on the field he was, he was the first one there to help our guy out. He was ready to do anything for any one of us. Not only did he have everyone’s respect, he had everyone’s trust. What an entitlement that is to have someone’s trust. Think of a few people you trust…powerful isn’t it?
From that point forward, if he told you to come back, you came back. If he told you to be quiet, you would zip it. If he told you you’ve made a mistake, you listened.
This had nothing to do with authority or creating rule by fear; this was assuming the role of team captain. Some players are born with unbelievable skill; these players should focus on creating plays and scoring goals. Some players are born with extreme speed; these players too should focus on making plays and scoring goals. Some players are born to lead and motivate; these are the players that are the glue of a team. Without these types of players, a team becomes aimless and has no real purpose.
A team captain does not have to be the best player on the team, nor does he/she have to be the best player on the team. A team captain needs to steer the team towards a common goal. I don’t want you to think that – after having read this blog – the team captain needs to be a bully. Wrong: the team captain needs to motivate the people around him. Some players do that by example, others by working harder than everyone, and others by creating a presence that is unquestionable.
Lastly, if the coach and captain work together on the same wavelength, this will benefit the team more than you think. A common goal with the right pieces in place will not only win you games, it will win you championships.