Coaching Tips: Developing Leaders and Choosing Captains

Leaders and captains can have a major impact on a squad – both positively and negatively. With renowned sports psychology expert Greg Dale as your guide, learn about different strategies regarding how to maximize your team’s leadership potential. In this feature, you’ll learn about effective ways to choose your captains and how to develop leaders. Equipped with a few extra tips, hopefully you’ll be able to see positive returns with your own program in the coming months.

Choosing Your Team Captains

It’s important how you decide to choose your team captains for the upcoming campaign. One key question to ask yourself is whether you should appoint captains or elect captains. Well, there are benefits to both.

When it comes to appointing captains, you will definitely know the kids you’re going to get. They will likely reflect their coach, be students of the game, be driven athletes, and overall people that you feel are strong leaders.

But there could also be a drawback here. Your selections may not be the individuals that your kids are going to follow. First, you need to know who your kids are. Using a chalkboard, let the kids tell you what they are looking for in a leader and write these characteristics down. In other words, discover your players’ expectations of a leader. They may say things like, “They lead by example” or “They’re a vocal leader” or “They’re positive” or “They’re a good extension of the coach.”

Write all of these down and even add a few of your own. Consider making copies and then let the kids take them home and think about it. Educate your players on leadership abilities. And based on these, let the kids vote on who they believe would make the best captains.

Another idea is to make leadership statements. These can crystallize your leadership concepts. For instance, leave a blank at the beginning of each statement and then let the kids write in who they think best embodies that statement. Things like, “____ is the hardest worker on the team.” You might have 10 or 15 of these statements and then the players write down two or three names that stand out the most for each. The players that stand out the most overall are likely the ones that should be captains.

The key thing to remember here is to always consider having your kids have input no matter what process you go through with.


Developing Leaders

One benefit to writing down the best leaders is that hopefully the players will start thinking about what it means to be a leader before they get that “C” on their jersey.

Meanwhile, if you have kids from each class on the team, consider instituting a team council. These players will meet with you once a month or every other week to talk about issues going on with the team. At the same time, you can also really begin that leadership process with the younger players. As they get older, they will have more influence on the team and are learning what it means to be a leader.

Another perk is that you can also guarantee that you’ll have someone in the know explaining why the coach is doing this or saying that. You’ll develop leaders to speak on your behalf. For instance at Duke University, they have instituted an emerging leaders program for sophomores and juniors that hones their skills and teaches them what they can do to be the best leaders they can be.

Next, once you identify who the captains are, evaluate your captains’ personalities. Keep in mind that their core personality will always stay the same over the years. A lot of coaches try to change kids’ personalities. For instance, take the example of a quiet kid who leads by example and when they do speak up, people listen.

If you end up trying to change your players’ personalities, it will be a challenge for you. It will likely come across as fake and could affect their performance in the long run. In other words, avoid asking players to lead outside of their style.

When working with players’ personalities as a coach, it’s key to allow players to lead with their strengths. If you have a vocal leader, put them in situations to take advantage of them.


The preceding clips can be found on Championship Productions’ DVD The Coach’s Guide to Developing Great Team Captains featuring Greg Dale. To check out additional videos highlighting team development concepts, click here.


I have always been curious how coaches help their team succeed. I had no idea that kids that you should pick for team captains will likely reflect aspects of the coach. I always thought that any kid could be a team captain as long as they knew how to play the game and lead. Great article.

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