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UK Coaching Research Team
Young people Rapport Building and Communicating

Things to be Wary of When Developing Captains in Youth Sport

Researchers spoke to coaches in youth sport who had a reputation for developing effective team captains. Here we draw on some of the pitfalls they identified.

When coaches in this study were asked about the biggest mistake they had made when developing captains, what emerged was just how difficult it is to find the correct balance of responsibility to give the captain.

Give them too little and the captaincy becomes just a title with no development, but give them too much responsibility and the coach can end up relying on the captain to the extent that they undermine their own authority.

Other dangers stemmed from what one coach referred to as ‘taking the easy choice’ and selecting the person that will make most people happy, rather than the most appropriate candidate. This often came from not getting to know the players fully and could result in selecting someone who was popular but didn’t want to be captain.

Given that research was based in youth sport, it is perhaps not surprising that the coaches also identified maturity as another important dimension in leadership.

As one coach stated:

It’s just their age, in that sometimes they haven’t had enough life experience yet to understand that you have to lead certain individuals differently than other individuals.

Other, less common pitfalls to be aware of included:

  • Not communicating with captains
  • Failing to reinforce and educate them
  • Developing poor relations with coaches, and
  • Making assumptions about what captains know and understand about leadership.

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