What is a Captain?

With the recent trade of Rockets captain Tyler Duarte to Leamington, and the press release about it, it got me thinking, what is a captain and what makes a good captain?

Webster’s Dictionary describes the following terms:

Team

  • a group of people who compete in a sport, game, etc., against another group
  • a group of people who work together
  • a group of two or more animals used to pull a wagon, cart, etc.

Although you are not livestock, I quite enjoy the last one because a team needs to come together and work together to get the job done, quite like 2 or 4 horses pulling a carriage.

Leader

  • a person who leads: as

o  guide, conductor

o  a person who directs a military force or unit

o  a person who has commanding authority or influence

Someone who I trust and have the utmost respect for, and has been a captain of a few of his hockey teams, has said many times that practice is for you to work, games are a battle.  Also, your captain needs to be someone who commands respect in the dressing room.  When they talk, you listen.

Responsible

  • having the job or duty of dealing with or taking care of something or someone
  • able to be trusted to do what is right or to do the things that are expected or required
  • involving important duties, decisions, etc., that you are trusted to do

The recurring theme here is trust.  To be captain means being trusted with the responsibility to lead your team into battle, game in and game out.

 

But what makes a captain?

I found this on a website and I can’t agree more.

1. A good team captain is one who is a dominant leader.

As the definition of leader states, it’s someone who has commanding authority.  That means you need to be able to command respect from your teammates.  If you’re trying to rally the troops for a big comeback in a game or to get your team out of a bit of a slump and they’re not listening, then you have a problem and need to re-evaluate your strategy.

2. They lead by their actions rather than just words.

This seems very self-explanatory, but how many times do people tell you to do one thing, but they do something completely different.  You are the leader of the team and all the others are your followers.  You need to lead by example.  If you give 80% effort, why are you expecting them to give 110%?

3. They pick you up when you’re down and encourage you

I believe that the role of a captain is to motivate and inspire your team.  You need to get them moving and believing in themselves so that they fully contribute 100% to the team.  You also need to build confidence in your teammates.  Diminishing their skills or efforts will not help them, you, or the team to achieve their goals.

4. Take full responsibility for the team performance

You’re not going to win every game, it’s a fact.  If the team plays poorly, you, as well as them, need to take ownership of that.  I also feel that this speaks to team functions too.  Whether you’re at a school reading to children, or you’re at the grocery store doing a fundraiser, or you’re in the Santa Claus parade, you are out in the community promoting your team, and are the face of your team.  All of you, not just the captain(s), need to behave accordingly.  And if someone gets out of line, you as the captain need to step up and take control of the situation.

5. Have an optimistic outlook on a game

This is an extension of above.  Again, you’re not going to win every game.  Sometimes when you get slaughtered, you still need to be positive and find something, even just some constructive criticism, that will help the team for the better next time around.

 

I also found this article, which is some of the mistakes that captains make.  It revolves mostly around high school sports, but it still applies.

1. Trying to please everyone

Smart leaders operate on the 10-80-10 principle. Ten percent of the team will be very co-operative and easy to work with on a daily basis. They will follow a leader and create few problems.

The other 10% of the team will be somewhat difficult. This group causes numerous problems because they don’t take direction well and refuse to be good team players.

The middle 80% of the team hasn’t decided who to follow. The direction of this large group can make or break a season. Great captains spend a lot of time working with the 80%.

The “difficult” 10% must be managed differently. Team captains need to understand, no matter how great the theme for the year is or how cool the poster looks, someone will not like it.

Great team captains must be comfortable with the fact they will not please everyone.

2. Not confronting difficult issues with the team

Remember that difficult 10%? If a teammate is affecting the team with a poor attitude or bad choices, a team captain must address them head-on: otherwise, he or she, risks pointing the team toward trouble. If team leaders simply sweep poor behavior under the rug, eventually that rug will have so much dirt under it, the team won’t function properly. As difficult as it is to confront a teammate, it’s important to address the behavior or attitude issues before they get out of hand.

3. Not confronting a difficult issue with a coach

Team captains and coaches have a unique relationship. On one hand, a team captain is an extension of the coaching staff. On the other hand, a captain is an athlete on the squad. The bottom line is that the coach has the final say in practice and in competition. If there’s a tough situation that needs to be discussed however, an effective team leader must take the risk of approaching the coach with it. Sometimes, coaches may not see how their actions affect the team. Of course, discussing the issue could backfire for any number of reasons. So be prepared. The best team captains will formulate their conversation, keep their composure, and take confident steps to talk it out. If the conversation goes badly, team leaders will know he or she was willing to be a leader by attempting to resolve the issue. If the conversation goes well, the team leader will earn even more respect from his or her teammates and coaching staff.

4. “Dissing” players or coaches behind their backs

It’s easy to pick on players who are not very talented. Sometimes it may create a laugh by poking fun at someone who is struggling. It’s also easy to complain about a coach when he or she is not there. The problem with “dissing” a player or coach is that the damage is hard to measure, but it can run very deep. It’s not uncommon for a younger athlete to struggle as a sophomore and be a superstar as a senior. Unfortunately, some kids who get picked on decide not to participate the following year. If team captains are “dissing” coaches behind their backs, it opens the floodgates for the rest of the team to think it’s okay. This pattern could eventually destroy the team. Even if team captains are not crazy about a teammate or the coach, it’s usually wise to watch your words.

5. Believing the only place leadership is shown revolves around a given sport

Some students just want to be seen as leaders in their sport and want to take off their leadership “cap” after a competition or practice. Let’s face it, captains are always representing their team and are under the watchful eye of others. Captains who disrupt in the classroom or display unsportsmanlike conduct in the stands do not shine a positive light on themselves, their high school or their respected team. High schools need leaders in the classroom, in the stands and in the community. They must be a positive example in all arenas. The leadership “cap” can’t be placed on a hook after the game or practice; it’s worn all the time.

6. Expecting to do a good job without leadership training

For too many years, athletes have been elected or selected and are then given little or no training or direction on how to be an effective captain. With all the resources available today, there is no excuse for being an uneducated team captain. Dozens of learning avenues are available for team captains including books, websites, and live workshops. While it may take time and effort to research the options, tapping into the power of experts will increase the odds of an excellent season. Great leaders are willing to put the time in outside of their sport to sharpen their skills and learn tips and strategies from those who have been there before them.

 

As I said earlier, I believe that the captain, and the alternates, should motivate and inspire your team.  If you can’t do that, or handle the responsibilities that come with being a leader and a captain, then you don’t deserve to wear the C.

If you have any comments, feel free to post below, or email me at s_rockets@hotmail.com.

You all know that I am a die-hard Rockets fan, but I am also a die-hard GOJHL fan, having been watching Jr. B hockey since I was 10 years old. I will only watch the GOJHL and during the hockey season, you never know what arena RG is gonna show up at.

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