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UK Coaching Research Team
96
Young People

Strategies to Develop Captains in Youth Sport

Ideas for developing leadership skills in young captains based on interviews with identified experts in this field

Research suggests that coaches should actively try to cultivate leadership skills, rather than just pick a captain and expect things to happen. So, how do you develop these skills in your captain? 

Researchers from universities in Michigan and New York spoke to coaches who had a reputation for developing effective team captains. This reputation was not based on win/loss records, but rather the expertise of the coaches in training captains.

Once you’ve found the right individual as your captain, the important thing is to invest time in developing their leadership skills. What was interesting about the coaches in this study was how proactive they were in developing leadership skills rather than expecting things to develop naturally. 

These coaches provided a number of strategies that they had found to be successful in the past.

A common theme among the coaches was how they encouraged their captains to learn from others and follow examples of good leadership.

These could be from past captains, older athletes or just from important adults.

One thing that all the coaches agreed on was the need for good communication with their captain. This could occur either during training or in more formal settings such as coach/captain meetings.

This communication could revolve around general topics or be more specifically focused on certain areas, such as expectations or concerns.

For example, one coach mentioned how giving captains the opportunity to express concerns was a way for them to find meaning in their role.

Constantly talk to them about any concerns that they may have so they understand that it’s more than just a title, it’s more than just going to the centre of the field on game day and participating in the coin toss.

Providing captains with feedback and reinforcement regarding their leadership actions and behaviours was a strategy most coaches employed.

The comments from one coach show how this helps strengthen the relationship, which in turn builds the confidence of the captain.

I talk to one of the captains probably three times in a practice where I’m being positive and thanking them for what they’re doing. I find that really works well. The more we develop that relationship and the more they can believe that they’re valued and trusted, the better the job they do.

Coaches also encouraged their captains to take part in formal leadership training, such as courses or conferences, while one coach went so far as to develop her own training programme by suggesting books that captains could read and then getting the captains to present on what they’d learnt.

This is consistent with other research that has shown the value of formal leadership training.

Related Content

Learn more about developing young captains in the remaining guidance and tips in this series:

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UK Coaching Research Team