Coach Advice: 3 Skills All Effective Captains Have in Common

Posted on: on Aug 14, 2016, 9:00:00 AM



Hey New Captain, congrats on your new position!


With oh-so many possibilities for a new year of college ultimate (finally under your direction!), you must be feeling pretty energized! Unless you're a veteran captain (or a robot) though, you're probably also feeling nervous about all that responsibility.


Don't sweat it! Expert help is on its way. We asked 56 coaches certified through USA Ultimate's Coaching Development Program what skills they think players need to be good captains. We then compiled their answers and added actionable steps you can take to become the best college captain you can be.


One surprising takeaway: 


Many young teams select the best player or most talented athlete among them to be captain, but coaches say talent on the field is not what makes a good captain. In fact, the best players can often actually make the worst captains. 


So what are the attributes that you should work on to lead your squad to success?



1. Love ultimate and embrace spirit of the game

Most of the coaches we surveyed responded that the best captains are bought in to what ultimate's all about. Here's a bit of what they had to say on the subject:


When selecting a new captain, I look for "commitment to and understanding of the game of ultimate."


I look for a captain that is "well-rounded [with a] wealth of ultimate knowledge and understanding of the game and the ability to teach the less developed players."


I look for a captain that is a "true manifestation of Spirit of the Game."


"But the most effective captains...can be calm and collected in intense games and difficult situations." 


how to get there:

Know and celebrate the rules of ultimate like they're the national anthem, and you've just won the gold! Respect all players on the field, and uphold safety above all else.




2. set An example For your teammates On and OFf The Field

A majority of the coaches surveyed did agree that the players with the strongest work ethic and commitment to the team tend to make the best captains.


"If it were up to me, I'd want captains that care too much and set good examples both on and off the field."


"Someone who can demonstrate they will work hard at practice, someone who's focused, someone other players look to in times of crisis."


"Commitment to the team is crucial. If they aren't in, others won't be."


I look for players who "show up early to everything, push hard in every sprint or workout, take responsibility for their actions on and off the field, embody a strong work ethic, and don't make excuses or exceptions for themselves in terms of strategy or team mentality."


"People only listen to you if they know you are following through. If you are pouring blood, sweat, tears, and countless hours of your time into the team, the team will pay that back with buy-in."



Decide that you will be the one who sets the standard for effort and commitment at practice as well as games. Players look to their captains to set the intensity, effort, and focus on the field. If you hold yourself to an extremely high standard, your players will respond in kind.




3. develop strong interpersonal skills

The coaches we surveyed 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.


"The most effective captains lead by example,...are patient with teammates, are effective communicators,...and always place the team and...teammates above themselves."


I look for a captain with "the ability to call forth the best in [his] teammates."


"The [captain] need[s] to get the rest of the team to buy in and want to be part of the team at 100% not just 80%."


A captain definitely must have "skills, but [must also be] able to lead through example. [She should have a] positive attitude...[and] always [be] picking up teammates verbally and physically."


I look for players with "great fundamentals, a great ability to communicate on and off the field, positivity, and a strong work ethic that other players can look up to."



Read a few books about leadership from esteemed ultimate coaches, take note of leaders you look up to and what traits they have that you admire, and listen to what your teammates have to say about what kind of leadership style works best for them.


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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!