3 Strategies for Creating Strong Leaders
The coach-captain partnership It is absolutely critical to your program’s success in so many ways. You rely on your captains to help set and uphold the standards of the team, monitor the chemistry, and be your voice in the locker room and on the weekends when you are not there.
You need your captains to reinforce the team’s standards and hold their teammates accountable. Similarly, your captains depend on you to provide credible leadership, guidance, and support as they step up and vocally lead the team. They rely on you to create a positive and productive environment that is conducive to success.
Unfortunately, both sides of the coach-captain equation are often frustrated with the other. Coaches are frustrated because the athletes of today don’t seem to have the strong leadership skills they did in past years. I often hear coaches lamenting things like, “Kids today don’t understand what it means to be a leader. They aren’t nearly as vocal as they need to be.” And “They aren’t willing to stand up and confront their teammates when necessary.”
Captains on the other hand feel that they do not always have the guidance or support they need from their coaches. For example, a recent poll I conducted of student-athletes revealed that over 60% of captains felt their coaches needed to do a better job of working with them. In essence, the captains complain that too many coaches preach the need for athlete leadership but do not invest the time to teach it.
Rather than both sides blaming the other, there is tremendous value in investing the time to work together to forge a strong coach-captain partnership, or leadership team. When coaches and captains are all on the same page and leading together as a unified leadership team, great things will happen in your program.
Below are three simple and practical ideas you can use to build a solid relationship with your team captains and create a strong leadership team.
1. Clarify Expectations on the Front End
“You’re a leader – I expect you to step up and lead.” Unfortunately, this is the extent of the communication and training the vast majority of coaches provide for their captains. Rather than assuming your captains know what to do and that they completely understand your philosophy and expectations, sit down at the beginning to clarify what you want and need from them. Create a job description of the 8-10 priorities you expect them to handle. Clarification of their roles and responsibilities on the front end will prevent dozens of misunderstandings down the road.
2. Help Your Leaders Assess their Leadership Strengths and Areas to Improve
Just as each of your athletes has certain physical strengths and weaknesses, so too do your leaders. Help each of your leaders become more aware of their leadership strengths and shortcomings. You can easily evaluate your leaders using the Team Leadership Evaluation by visiting: http://www.jeffjanssen.com/coaching/evaluation2.html
Encourage your captains to utilize and maximize their strengths. In terms of weaknesses, some of your leaders might have a hard time confronting their teammates when necessary. Or conversely, some of your leaders are too blunt and lack the tact necessary to get their messages across well. Whatever the challenge, help your leaders become aware of and acknowledge their areas to improve. Encourage them to make sure that their weaknesses are not a leadership liability as they work to improve them to an acceptable level.
3. Take the Pulse of Your Team on a Regular Basis
Every coach knows that teams are constantly in a state of flux. One minute your chemistry might be great and the next there is major drama on your team. One day your team might be feeling confident and on track and the next they might be scared and tentative. Some players are content with their roles while others are boiling below the surface. Much like the human body, your team has certain vital signs that must be continually monitored to assess the health of your team.
Because your captains are the heart and soul of your team, talk with them often to get their insights on your team’s vital signs. They will let you know if your team is healthy and strong, has a case of the sniffles, or needs to be rushed to the ER immediately. You can use the Captain’s Weekly Monitoring Sheet in the captain’s Manual as a tool to monitor your team. By staying on top the situation with your captains, you can keep your team healthy and proactively prevent many of the serious illnesses that can invade your team.
In summary, invest the time to develop a strong partnership with your captains. Create a formidable leadership team that is on the same page, operates in an environment of honesty and trust, and becomes a unified leadership presence that has a powerful influence on the culture and direction of the team. As a coach, you must take the initiative to reach out to your captains to create and sustain this powerful partnership. Remember, if you want your captains to be extensions of you, you must extend yourself to them.
This article was written by protexsports.com contributing expert Jeff Janssen. Jeff Janssen, M.S., helps coaches and athletes develop the team chemistry, mental toughness, and leadership skills necessary to win championships. He is the author of Championship Team Building, The Seven Secrets of Successful Coaches, and The Team Captain’s Leadership Manual. For more info, visit www.jeffjanssen.com.