Posted in Coaching

Selecting a Captain

Every team whether it is u5’s or national team has some kind of process for selecting a captain. Typically this is an arbitrary process and the actual captain is quite trivial, but players in a team find great significance to who it is.I believe that a captain needs to earn their position and that it should not simply be a popularity contest, but often with junior teams they want to pick their friend more than a good leader.

In previous years for my junior ACT volleyball teams that I have coached I have used one of two processes. Either I pick the person who deserves it most, in that they do what is asked of them and put in the extra time to do things that will help out the coaches and the team, or I let the players have a vote and decide who the captain will be. In both instances I have had various problems with the selection. Whether it is that the captain is of no help to the coaching staff and team, or that the players do not respect the person chosen and feel animosity towards them for any of a number of reasons.

This year I have decided to combine my two previous processes. I have selected a “leadership group” of 4 girls who I see strong leadership potential and good team attitudes. My plan is to now announce to the team that these are the leadership group, and that the rest of the team is able to vote for a captain to be selected purely from these 4. To me this should get buy in from the team as to who their captain is, due to the voting process,  but there will not be a surprise or problem with who the captain ends up being.

As the team is selected as a two year bracket (girls born 95/96) I have also selected my leadership group taking into consideration that I wanted to have some from both years. Fortunately this decision wasn’t too difficult and I ended up with 2 1995 girls and 2 1996 girls. Although their actual responsibilities will be quite small, it does enable me to split the team into smaller groups where one of the leaders is in charge if each group.

I have no doubt that there will still be some issues with this process, but in the end the important thing is that the team will get some benefit out of it, and some of the girls will be able to develop further leadership skills in the environment. I can only see how it goes and decide later if it was the right decision.



This blog was started for a Uni subject, and has since evolved into a place where I can voice my thoughts, typically about coaching and sport. I grew up in Sydney, then moved to Canberra for some further study in 2011 and when I finished in 2014 I moved up to Brisbane. I have played, coached and generally been involved with volleyball since 2013. As of 2017 I am now the QAS Volleyball Assistant Coach.

3 thoughts on “Selecting a Captain

  1. I F!@#ing hate picking captains and have gotten it wrong in every way imaginable. Ironically, the one time i truly got it right resulted in a significant dispute, followed by an awful 15 months of my coaching life. The “leadership group” thing seems like a uniquely Australian concept. The best 2 or 3 teams I’ve coached had a “Leadership group” that occurred organically – they had 4 players who could all “lead” – i didn’t appoint them. The person I pick as captain is flat out the player who demonstrates the behaviours every individual on the team must exhibit, all the time without thinking. With my U15s team at the moment, it’s the player who, without fail, max jumps on every spike and leads with her platform when she passes. Coaches of junior teams over estimate the importance of “other stuff” – how vocal they are, how extroverted they are, how they organise the team. While all these things are nice, if they can’t consistently perform the actions in the team philosophy it’s a disaster. I rarely have more than one player that can do this. Some coaches appoint a captain or vice captain to “get something more out of a player”. Then there are the issues of the players that get overlooked and think they are more deserving of the title.

  2. After many years of team captain disasters, two seasons ago I finally got it right – and ended up with a Captain who led her team, and they followed her. Everyone liked her and listened to her. She was smart, communicated well with me and the team, tried her best every moment of every practice or game. The only thing she could not do was lead by example as almost everyone on the team was a better player than she was. But no one cared. They followed her anyway. Then one forth of the way into the season she crushed her foot in an ATV accident and has never played volleyball again.

    I’m nervous now. This season I have her younger sister on my team and she is everything her older sister was as a team captain, only she is also the best, most experienced, player on the team. I’m hoping she stays away from the family ATV.

  3. A while ago I thought that the captain should be the person who most epitomises the way you want the team to play. I still think that’s part of it. The first team I coached where I used this theory ended up having a captain who was on the bench most of the time. I didn’t think this was a problem. In hindsight though, after a season of play, the person who most epitomised the way I wanted the team to play was actually someone else. Did it affect the team negatively? Well, we won so obviously not!

    One thing that I learned from another coach last year was the idea that the team knows who should be captain, and that if that person isn’t the captain then the team has problems. I like this idea, up to a point. The point is where the team is wrong. Sometimes the team needs someone who they do not realise should be captain. The problem is where the captain the team wants does not lead them in the direction the team needs to have. Will the team be successful with this type of captain? Maybe not, but as a coach you need to make the call that the team would definitely not be lead in the right direction with someone else.

    Lastly, I like the idea from former Geelong AVL captain Tom Harley is that to lead, you need to have been a good follower. Many times the ‘leader’ has just always been the leader, so they never learn what it is like to be a good follower. ie: they never learn what others in the team need from a leader and what it is like being led. I read a good article today on Collingwood, where the relationship between Nathan Buckley and Mick Malthouse was examined when they were working together. Buckley had always been a leader in any team he was involved in as a player. In the relationship he found himself in he had to become a good follower, even when the leader was making his life tough in this role. I suspect this has made him a better leader now.

    One of the challenges with this process (moving from follower to leader) is that often leaders are ‘fast-tracked’ through this, by other leaders who have been fast-tracked. So you end up with a preponderance of people in leadership roles who have never learned to follow and don’t understand the benefits of it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s