7 ways to coach your team captains to become better leaders

written by Erica Quam

Once you and our your team has chosen your team captains what do you to mentor, teach and support them?

1. Share your expectations

Create a list of expectations they can read, ask questions about and refer back to throughout the season. What specifically do you expect your team captains to do? This can be a confusing position to be - especially if this is their first leadership role. If they don't meet expectations as a captain, what are the consequences? When you are more clear as a coach on what your expectations are, they will also be more clear as a captain.

2. Exchange resources

What are your favorite leadership tools? Give them a list of a few books you have read, talks you've listened to or blogs you read that may give them more insight into the nuances of leadership. Ask them to share leadership resources with you. Encourage them to draw on past experiences to bring with them into this role.

3. Schedule a regular time to meet

Make time to meet with your captains on a regular basis - not just when issues come up. These meetings can help establish a level of trust between coach and captain. It may help them become more open, gain confidence and give you a better sense of their unique style as a leader. Encourage them to listen and observe their teammates from this new perspective.

4. Help them step out of their comfort zone

Different situations call for different styles of leadership. You may have a captain who is comfortable and confident being direct. For others...that may be a real struggle. Their strength may be checking in with the athlete who is quietly struggling. As your captains gain experience help them step out of their comfort zone and practice leading with different styles.

5. Take time to debrief the issues that come up

Leadership takes practice! Give them space to learn and grow within this role on your team. Don't expect them to be perfect or even to handle things the way you would. Ask them three questions after the dust has settled (and BEFORE you give them feedback): what went well, what didn't go well and what could you do differently next time? Help them become better leaders by connecting an experience with specific ways they can improve.

6. Be transparent in your decision-making

Help your team captains understand the bigger vision of the decisions you make. Be more intentional of letting your captains in to the behind the scenes. Give them a better sense of the things you are considering and a little history behind it - instead of just, '...because I said so.' This can help them bridge the gap between coaches and athletes or at least be able to share a different perspective.

7. Support them along this journey of self-discovery

Being a captain is not an easy job. This position makes them stand out. It can literally separate them from their peers - physically, mentally and emotionally and put them in a unique position. They won't do it perfectly. There may be times where they just want to be "normal" and be like everyone else. Acknowledge and recognize their growth and efforts as they try to figure out where they fit in.