It used to be that the primary function of a team captain was to meet with the officials at half court before the game and shake hands with the opposing team's captain.
Now that there is a much bigger emphasis on peer leadership and team bonding, the role of captain has become much more important.
With that in mind, more and more players are aspiring to be their team's captain whether they vocally admit that to their friends or not.
If you are a player who would like to be an effective team captain, here are 5 very important areas to consider and to work on improving.
1. Appropriate Behavior On and Off the Court
An effective team captain is one who has wholeheartedly bought into all the team's rules, expectations, and values. You cannot have a "Do as I say not as I do" approach to leadership. Coaches love it when they can tell everyone in their program, "Just do what Taylor does and everything will be fine." Like it or not, team captains are often the face of the program and are the standard by which all other players are judged. As team captain, you can still be a kid and have lots of fun but you must be extra careful not to do anything that could be perceived as detrimental to the program.
2. Commitment to Academics
Captains don't have to be 4.0 students, but it certainly wouldn't hurt. The important thing is to be committed to being the very best student possible and not to settle for anything less. In other words, if you are potentially an "A" student, then be an "A" student! Don't settle for C's! If you happen to be a "C" student then make sure you always get C's or better. Don't settle!
As a team captain it is highly possible that you will be a little more recognizable than your teammates - especially on campus. Showing up to class on time, sitting in the first three rows, and paying attention without texting will not only improve your grades but will also get rid of any "dumb jock" stereotypes. Teachers all talk to each other. Why not give them something positive to talk about?
3. Above Average Playing Ability
Being an above average player is almost a necessity if you want to be a team captain. Why? Because being an outstanding player carries a certain level of credibility which makes it much easier to be a leader. I'm not saying its right or even the way it should be - I'm just saying that's the way it is. In fact, over the years I've been fortunate enough to coach a multitude of players who have possessed all the characteristics of a perfect team captain except that were only average players. With only a couple exceptions, other players just didn't follow their lead.
If you want to be a team captain next season, don't forget to keep working on your game!
4. Flexible Personality
The next ingredient necessary to be an effective team captain and leader is personality. Granted, you don't have to have the outgoing charisma of a Magic Johnson or even a Ray Lewis, but you do need to have the ability to communicate with each of your teammates. You have to be willing and able to inspire, help, and even listen to other members of your team. It's hard to be a captain if you always keep to yourself, never take your headphones off and are never available if and when someone needs you. Since there are usually multiple personality styles on every team you need to adjust your own so you can relate and influence everyone.
5. Unwavering Loyalty
Possibly the most important characteristic of a good captain is also the most difficult for a lot of players - loyalty. Players are usually fiercely loyal to each other but captains must also exhibit a high level of loyalty to the coach and program as well. Captains aren't expected to "rat out" their teammates but at the same time must use some maturity and common sense. As an example, one year I had a player on my team who was suffering from a substance abuse addiction that was
hurting both himself and the rest of the team. In that situation should the captain be loyal to his teammate and friend and keep quiet or loyal to his coach and program and take the appropriate actions? Fortunately for all of us our captain did the right thing. Of course I was surprised - that's why he was the captain!
Being a team captain is not just a token title but a huge responsibility and a good captain can be a tremendous advantage to the entire team. If you want to take on that responsibility and influence your team's success both on and off the court, make sure you work on these 5 critical areas before next season.