Picking team captains

A while back I came across a blog post which discusses the subject of picking team captains. The blogger in question took something of a military view on leadership and the selection of leaders. Generally speaking, though, the major question asked was whether team captains should be selected by the team or by the coach. Each method has pluses and minuses.

Team votes on their captain
On the plus side, if we as coaches allow the team to pick their captain there’s a pretty good probability of team buy-in for the choice. The risk, of course is that you get it what essentially is a popularity contest which doesn’t reflect actual leadership. You could end up with a squad split based on which player ends up being leader and which one doesn’t.

Coach picks the team captain
Here, the benefit is that the coach can select a player who most demonstrates the characteristics they want in the team’s leader. The risk, however, is that the player is not one well accepted by the team.

The author of the blog post offers a split solution of having two captains – one voted and one coach-picked. I’ve definitely seen teams do this. I’ve also seen teams have multiple captains who were either strictly voted for or coach-selected. The advantage to the multiple-captain situation is you are able to balance strengths and weaknesses among the captains.

I personally tend strongly toward the coach-selection model. For me, I think the risks in the democratic model are high, while if I’m doing my job of observing team dynamics I should be able to avoid picking a captain the team won’t accept (not that it’s a guarantee, of course). Importantly, I also want to ensure that the team’s captain is someone with whom I can work and communicate, to whom I can delegate, and from whom I can get meaningful information and feedback.

What about you? What’s your team captain approach?

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman

John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women’s team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women’s professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women’s Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.