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UK Coaching Research Team
Young people Rapport Building and Communicating

Selecting Good Captains in Youth Sport

Captains improve unity within teams, and help their coach by encouraging and guiding teammates during games and in practice. Research shows that the first stage in developing a good captain is selecting the right person

Researchers from universities in Michigan and New York spoke to coaches in youth sports who had a reputation for developing effective team captains. This reputation was not based on win/loss records, but rather the expertise of the coaches in training captains. 

Every team needs a leader. This is not just another sporting cliché, but something that has been demonstrated by research. Although only 30% of leadership is hereditarily based – in other words, leaders are made and not born - the coaches in the study did feel that potential captains should display some natural ability.

Typical examples of this natural ability could be:

  • Confidence
  • A passion for their sport
  • Respect among their peers
  • A good work ethic
  • Being vocal
  • Supporting others, and
  • Being willing to take risks to do the right thing

Of course, there are also certain characteristics the coaches will tend to avoid, and not surprisingly, many were the opposite of the positive characteristics.

These included:

  • Being afraid to speak up
  • Having a poor work ethic
  • Breaking the rules, or
  • Not being inclusive or supportive

Perhaps the most commonly stated trait to avoid was selfishness.

Once you’ve found the right individual as your captain, the important thing is to invest time in developing their leadership skills.

Related Content

Learn more about developing young captains in the remaining guidance and tips in this series:

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UK Coaching Research Team