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How to Identify and Select your Team Leaders,
an excerpt from The Team Captain's Leadership Manual
by Jeff Janssen, M.S.
Website: Janssen Peak Performance


Your team captains can make or break your season. When you look back over your coaching career, I'll bet that you had great team leaders during your most successful seasons and poor leaders during your most frustrating seasons. Your team captains have a huge impact on your team's success, your sanity, and your satisfaction as a coach. Based on the research for my new book The Team Captain's Leadership Manual, here are six options you can use to determine your team leaders.

1. Coach chooses captains.
Obviously, when you choose your own captains, you get to select the people who you feel comfortable working with and believe will do the best job. While this option works well for you, you risk choosing someone who is not as respected or trusted by their teammates. Further you take the awesome power of involvement away from your team by showing them that you do not value their input. In a survey I conducted of college and high school coaches, I discovered that 25% of coaches use this option to determine their team captains.

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2. Players vote for captains.
A second option is to let your players vote for captains. This has the benefit of showing your players that you respect them enough to allow them to determine the team captains. Further, they will likely choose the people they respect. However, I suggest you remind them on the front end that this is not a popularity contest. Invest the time before the vote to clarify the specific characteristics and skills necessary to be an effective captain. Your athletes should then vote for the people whom they respect and who they feel can effectively lead the team. The possible drawback is that your team might pick someone you dislike or do not think would be an effective captain. This option was used by 34% of the coaches surveyed.

3. Athletes nominate/Coach makes final decision.
A hybrid of the first two, this option gives you the best of both worlds. You allow your team to nominate people who they think have the ability to be effective leaders. With this method, you take their recommendations very seriously and get the final word in making the decision. The majority of the time you will simply find that you are endorsing their choice(s) for team captain. This option was used by 16% of the coaches surveyed.

4. Seniors automatically named captains.
This option puts the leadership responsibility on the veterans of the group by automatically naming the seniors as captains. While many times the seniors take this responsibility seriously and rise to the occasion, I can think of several instances when certain seniors were the absolute last people you would want to lead your team. This option also goes against the principle that leadership is a privilege to be earned, not a position to be named. This option is used by 6% of the coaches surveyed.

5. Create a Team Council.
Another option is to have your players choose (or you determine) a Team Council. Team Councils are typically comprised of a representative or two from each class (freshman, sophomore, junior, seniors). In essence, the person becomes a representative or captain for their own class. This method usually works well on teams that have larger numbers of people. The Team Council meets on a regular basis to monitor the team, give input and feedback to the coaching staff, and make recommendations on any discipline issues. The advantage of this option is that you develop a large number of leaders across your team. The potential drawback of this option is that sometimes leadership by committee can get bogged down. This option was used by 6% of the coaches surveyed. 6. No official captains named.
Finally, some prominent and successful coaches like Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt and Northern State men's basketball coach Don Meyer don't designate "official" team captains but allow them to naturally and informally emerge. This option enables anyone to become a leader and allows leaders to naturally emerge throughout the course of a season. It gives everyone the opportunity to lead rather than deferring to the "official" captains.

Most of the time good leaders will eventually step up and assert themselves. However, I have seen some seasons where effective leaders never emerged throughout the entire season. Or, worse yet, the wrong people step forward and try to lead. This option was used by 13% of the coaches surveyed.

What's the Best Way to Determine Your Team Leaders?
So then, what's the best way to determine your leaders? Ultimately, after reflecting on the pros and cons of each option, the best way is the one that fits best with your philosophy and the unique makeup of your team. Some coaches even change the way they determine their leaders each season depending on their particular situation. However you do it is up to you. The bottom line is that both you and your athletes need effective, respected, and credible leaders to be successful. Be sure you are doing your part to properly identify, train, empower, and mentor them.

Excerpted from The Team Captain's Leadership Manual by Jeff Janssen. Visit Jansen Peak Performance Resources or call 1-888-721-TEAM for more information.

Jeff Janssen helps coaches and athletes develop the team chemistry, mental toughness, and leadership skills necessary to win championships.

Visit Jeff's Peak Performance website for more information or contact him by the information below.

Janssen Peak Performance, Inc.
102 Horne Creek Court
Cary, NC 27519

Our thanks to Human Kinetics for sending us some excellent coaching books. You can't beat the price, less than $20.

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Excellent video with thoughts and drills on organizing your practices. Learn from one of the greatest coaches of the game, Coach "K".
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"My son's high school coach gave him a copy of the book and he read it in two days. Now he is leading the effort to get himself a scholarship. The book is inspiring and effective for high school athletes."
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