WIN ARTICLE #137 The Making of a Team Captain


The Making of a Team Captain
By: Ben Peterson

A team captain is one of the most important members of a successful team effort. The stability given to a team by a thoughtful captain can make all the difference for the coach(s), each team member and the success of the team.

A captain is a growing learning member of the team, so he is not expected to be perfect or know it all. There are elements of stability that are important for a captain if he is to carry out his various privileges and responsibilities.

Some might say that spring is not the time to discuss the roles of a captain. After all, the wrestling season just finished. The team won’t be fully together until late fall. But now is the best time for captains to begin their work of leading and inspiring their team. Staying in touch with the team is so valuable for off season lifting and running, preparing and competing in Freestyle and Greco, or just playing conditioning games. Coaches cannot do all these extra things with a team, but a captain can. As a coach I have found that captains and upperclassmen can often get the average wrestler to do more training than a coach can.

My son says, “I would rather have my football team lifting and conditioning together with an average training program than using the very best program alone.” There is something about teammates talking, training together, and encouraging each other. The camaraderie and commitment built while training together in the off season will go a long way in the heat of the season’s competition.

Let’s consider four elements for captains, team leaders, and upperclassmen to work on that can make a huge effect on their team’s success next season.

1. Liaison

A captain is often a go-between with coaches and team members. Clear communication is essential. Captains often find themselves explaining or defending the coach to his teammates. As well, he may need to explain and defend the wrestlers with the coach. This communication may seem difficult, but with a level head a captain can avoid misunderstandings from needlessly escalating out of control.

It is helpful for a captain to be a peacemaker. His ability to listen will be extremely helpful. Before coming to conclusions or passing blame, he will need to know both sides. Hard feelings between teammates can be an explosive thing and is a time when the captain can really show concern for his teammates.

2. Maturity

The maturity to not jump to conclusions is invaluable for team leaders. Take time to verify the facts first. This means talking to the main parties involved. Then determine a reasonable plan of action if necessary. Patient observation of all team members will help you know the demeanor and attitude of each person. When someone gets hot under pressure, your prior evaluation of them will tell you if you need to encourage, correct, or confront them, and how to properly do so.

A team captain is an advisor. Giving the facts and the truth in a stable intelligent way is important. A willingness to tell the truth and not just say what people want to hear is vital. The more trust a captain builds, the better he will lead both the inexperienced teammate and the experienced senior. Seeking to be honest and fair with all will build that trust.

When surprised with a problem, take time to think about it from all angles. Then, after careful consideration, deal with it and show others that no situation is hopeless. An experienced mature

captain who has lived through difficulty yet stays stable under pressure is invaluable to those who find it easy to blow up. A captain’s stability can bring calmness and confidence to others.

Seeking to express a thankful loyalty to your coaches, team, school, parents, and the community is another key element of maturity. Loyalty and honesty are two of the most important aspects of bringing calm stability to any team effort.

3. Example

Remember you have been in more situations than many of your teammates. They will be much calmer if they see you handling new and old situations with stability and confidence. You have more experience to draw on, so use it to look ahead and be prepared to show what to do in new situations, particularly to the new guys.

Traveling to a tournament that you have attended several times may be totally new to a freshman or new varsity wrestler. Draw on your experience to inform others of what to expect and set them at ease. Spend time with that new wrestler who is cutting weight for the first time.

Ideas on warming up for competition, what and when to eat before a meet, and how to relax under the pressure of a big meet are all things your experience can make a difference for the newer team members. Your encouragement could help them win their first match, recover and learn from a loss, or even send them on a trail to state level wrestling before they graduate.

4. Leadership

All of these points really lead to being a leader. But a leader also needs to encourage with enthusiasm. Being a positive cheerleader for your team is very important. Yes, the coach and others will do this, but the captain can also create an atmosphere that is positive, energetic, and hopeful. Always work to keep hope alive.

It is amazing how teammates can inspire each other. Upperclassmen and team leaders should work to inspire each other to compete at higher and higher levels. Bring positive energy and the younger team members can, and will, be inspired.

Part of leadership is holding people accountable. This may be hard but it is necessary and important. Captains can and should approach team members who are not attending practices and team meetings or are not working at practice. As an observant captain you can handle many situations before they escalate into a bigger problem. Often, captains can fix the issue before the coaches even notice it. And that is being a good captain!

Hebrews 2:10 states says Christ as, “…the captain of their salvation was made perfect through suffering.” He is a great example of a captain. He even gave His life for us. I am not suggesting that team captains need to die for their team, but I know many who have given their time, energy, heart and soul to their team and never regretted it. Be a good captain and invest your life in your team.

This may seem like a lot for a young captain. Don’t expect to be perfect in all these areas. You are still growing and maturing along with your teammates. But use these four aspects to look for ways you can strengthen and unite your team. These are skills that are valuable in all areas of life, not just sports. Working together with your team to learn and sharpen these four skills will bring great satisfaction and the best chances for success.

Find other articles and the book called “ROAD TO GOLD” by Ben at: Today Ben & John Peterson run Camp of Champs Wrestling Retreats. Contact them at: PO Box 222 Watertown, WI 53094 920-918-0542

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