Congratulations! You've been passed the torch to lead your college team to infinity and beyond this season! Rookies will be inspired by you, coaches will trust and respect you, and you will have a fantastic new talking point on your resume.
But like Uncle Ben from Spiderman once said, "With great power comes great responsibility."
Stepping up to the challenge of captaining a team for the first time can seem a little daunting. In my years of captaining, running a team can sometimes feel like riding a thin line between "I got this," and "I have no idea what I'm doing."
But it doesnt have to be like that! Subscribe to the Captains Resources blog and read on for some helpful hints for first-time captains to make your job a little easier throughout the season.
1. Consult Previous Captains
Assuming you aren't building a brand new ultimate program from scratch, you probably know a few previous team captains. TALK TO THEM! They are valuable repositories of captain knowledge!
Reach out to the captains of years passed to get the skinny on what you need to know as the new head honcho. They'll have a ton of useful information to pass down to you, including important contacts, tried-and-true practice planning strategies, and years of tips and advice to offer.
Previous captains probably know a ton of team cheers from over the years too!
Consulting previous captains will also give you an opportunity to get some insider information on what it's like to captain your team in particular. That's imperative information you won't find anywhere else.
Learn the captain way. Master it. Then read this to learn how to pass all that information down to your future successor.
2. Establish Partners In Crime
Two heads are better than one. Or three. Or four.
Trying to take on all captain responsibilities oneself is a surefire way to burnout - and fast. Save yourself the frustration and enlist a team of co-captains to help share the load.
It's dangerous to go alone! Take these co-captains and go together!
When leading with a team of captains, it is critical that everyone is on the same page. Captains must align their season goals with one another and invest in a shared team mission. The best way to do this is to dedicate some time and effort to bonding with your co-captains.
Strong, collaborative teams are a result of strong, collaborative leadership. Check out our co-captain bonding packet here for some resources to help your leadership get started on the right foot!
3. Get Organized & Plan Ahead
Ultimate players have a reputation for putting things off until the very last second. Our advice to you, fresh captain? Break from the mold. Trust us, you'll thank yourself later.
Here are the tasks to begin thinking about early on.
- Decide which tournaments you're going to early on.
- Prep for upcoming tournaments and team events.
- Collect player contact info early so you can quickly reference them in a pinch.
- Collect player dues early and brainstorm potential fundraising strategies.
- Create a checklist of to-do items before each tournament to ensure you have everything you need (Psst - we've already made you one to help you get started!)
- Start your new uniform order in the fall. There are a lot of reasons why fall is the best time to order team gear!
The more organized the above items ahead of time, the less time you'll need to spend later frantically scrambling around to get everything in order - and the more time you'll have to focus on actually playing ultimate!
4. Know and grow your team culture
Every team is different, characterized by its own dynamic and deep-seated intracacies.
Putting the "up" in pump up
As such, there is no true catch-all solution to how to be the best captain across all ultimate teams. As a new captain, you'll need to become a leader that embodies the unique culture of your college team.
In a previous post, we asked 56 coaches through the USAU Coaching Development Program what makes a great captain. They told us that, more than anything else, the best captains are good communicators with a positive outlook, and they tend to emphasize building trusting relationships with their teammates.
But how does a new captain achieve this?
Organize a beginning of the season kick-off event with your team. Start the night with mix and mingle events to get new rooks chatting with your vets (here are some icebreaker game ideas and here are even MORE). Once everyone is acquainted with one another, open up the floor to discussion about the upcoming season.
Good questions to ask include:
- What team/teammate traits are most important to you?
- What are your team goals for the season?
- What are your personal goals for the season?
- What are you biggest concerns about the upcoming season?
If your teammates feel like they are being heard and supported at the individual level, they will work more cohesively at the team level.
5. Lead By Example
Last, but certainly not least, set an example for everything you want to see in your teammates.
Show up early to practice. Know the rules of the game. Focus at practice. Be respectful and supportive of your teammates. Throw and do pods outside of practice. Be an active sideline. Embody SOTG through high-fives, cheering for the other team, and keep a level head both on and off the field.
Flywheel looking, well, fly sporting some quality ultimate spirit.
You don't have to be the best player on your team to be the best captain for your team. A great captain is a player who is an exemplary model of our sport and its values. These are the traits that will fuel your team to want to be the best they can be - and keep coming back year after year.
OVER TO YOU
What advice do you have for the fresh captains of the new school year? Share with us your best practices and strategies for first-time captains!