Coach Advice: A Quick Guide to Becoming Captain

Posted on: on Sep 6, 2016, 4:17:53 PM


 Hey underclassmen,


So you've got your eye on the captainship, huh? You dream of the power, the glory, and the legacy that comes with leading your team to greater heights than it's ever reached!


Stop the roll, player. How are you going to get there? Better start laying the groundwork now.


After we asked 56 coaches certified through USA Ultimate's Coaching Development Program what makes an effective captain, we asked them what a younger player should do to get there.


Here's the advice we received:


Start with being a reliable teammate. Then establish yourself as a stand-out leader.


Let's take a closer look at what goes into that!



be a reliable teammate


1. learn and understand the game.

The coaches we surveyed agreed that before you even think about leading anyone, you should know where to lead them. Read the latest edition of the rules, focus on improving your Spirit, and pay attention when your current captain is teaching plays and strategies.


"Know the game inside and out. Know the rules. Understand the basic sets and plays - bring creativity to the team in terms of that understanding."


"Listen to previous captains and coaches and show that you have learned something."


2. dedicate your time, energy, and focus to the team and your teammates.

Most of the coaches we asked told us that being a captain takes a lot of time and work. They look for players that have proven they'll give the position their all by committing time and support prior to captain elections.


"Focus during practice... Work hard on the field. Lift up [your] teammates."


 "Demonstrate that you are ready to put the team first, and try to help the whole team improve (lift your teammates). You can do this in a number of ways: sacrificing personal time for the team (show up to practice early to work on throws - invite others to join); be a positive presence on the field (lead cheers on the sideline - storm the field for high-fives regardless of point's outcome); give encouragement to folks when they need it."


"High attendance. Work the sidelines. Be an advocate for the team. SOTG."


"Show up, take responsibility and model the best behaviors in practice, make other teammates feel supported, practice SOTG even in heated situations."


be a stand-out leader


1. be vocal.

Like it or not, to be a team leader, you're going to need to talk in front of people. The coaches we talked to encourage you to make your voice heard with lots of communication on the field, active sideline chatter, and encouragement for your teammates.


"Learning when and where to talk despite not being a captain is one of the first things. With my younger players, they are often silent in a huddle (usually more vocal around their peers). That doesn't mean they need to be screaming during a timeout, but they need to feel comfortable getting their voice out there...but a silent player doesn't demonstrate (although they might have) an interest in being a captain."


"Knowing what to say: be uplifting, don't offer strategy (especially conflicting strategy to captains / coaches)"


2. take initiative.

Don't wait around for Captain to tell you to do something. A majority of the surveyed coaches agreed that they want a leader who will find out what needs to be done, and volunteer to make it happen. Not only will that show the team you're observant and willing to step up, it's also a fantastic life skill to get good at now.


"Taking on small organizational tasks can happen even as a young player. Organizing the team travel for a tournament, helping coordinate workouts, helping with fundraising can be good to get involved with to show good organizational skills and motivation to help the team. Even if those formal roles aren't available, young players can show leadership by taking initiative to organize throwing sessions with teammates, set up social activities together, or reaching out to players that might be having a hard time and connecting with them."


"Young players need to be willing to just try stuff on the field. I expect players to make mistakes. If the[y are making] mistakes then that means they['re] trying to push to get to the next level."


"Actively talk to the current captains, actively show interest / ability to learn new things, ask to help teach a skill / run a drill to work on teaching ability, and in general offer help whenever / wherever possible."


Disclaimer: By following this list, you'll increase your chances of becoming a team captain, but it's not a guarantee. Maybe there's high competition on your team, and maybe someone else gets selected. Don't fret - there are lots of other ways to be a leader on the team, and if you stick with ultimate post-college, there will be lots more opportunities for you to try on your captain hat!


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Over to you

What did we miss? What was confusing? Let us know and we'll augment this post for clarity as questions arise!