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Coaches should not be hasty in selecting their team captain. The decision is likely to have a significant impact, not just in terms of team dynamics and on-field success but in terms of the captain’s wider role as club standard-bearer and role model to new and younger players.
With that in mind, what do you look for in a great captain and a great leader? And why are those qualities so important in your team, club or sport?
Some famous names from the world of football gave their opinion on the qualities that are intrinsic to being a consummate leader in the talkSPORT documentary ‘The Art of Captaincy’ aired this month.
The documentary is well worth a listen, and here are a few of the notable soundbites.
According to Vincent Kompany, the captain should be “the one guy who cares about the team a little more than himself.”
Gary Neville said of the characteristics of a successful leader: “To wear the armband, you need to have the respect of the dressing room and lead by example, in terms of your work ethic and your standards… so that young players look up to you.”
And for Martin Keown, a great captain and leader must be a good player first and foremost, with a winning mentality: “A good communicator, a link between the management and the players and above all else someone that can be relied upon in his performance, his drive and his reliance to win.”
Stuart Pearce says they must show a genuine interest in their team-mates – and be willing to serve them as much, if not more, than themselves: “If you and I are working together and you know I’ve got your back and care about you, you’re more likely to follow me as a leader than someone you think is only in it for himself.”
You can listen to the documentary here: https://talksport.com/radio/listen-again/1574280000/
While a good captain will have a positive impact on performance by being the right “calibre” of player, as Simon Jordon puts it, it is their “character” – the mental and moral qualities they possess – that really sets them apart.
So, what are the most important qualities of a captain? Leadership is multi-faceted but is any one quality more prized than any other? Leading by example and inspiring and motivating those around you, perhaps? Being selfless? Having a strong psychological mindset to make tactical decisions under pressure? Embodying the core values of the team?
Do the characteristics of a good captain differ depending on the sport or is there a universal archetype of a sports captain?
In the comments under my blog with Sam Turner ‘Can you coach leadership? Are leaders born or made? What does effective leadership look like’, Ian Mahoney uses the apronym LEADER to spell out what great leadership means to him: Listens. Educates, Agrees, Directs, Empowers, Rewards. Have a read here: https://community.ukcoaching.org/spaces/10/welcome-and-general/blogs/general/9480/can-you-coach-leadership-are-leaders-born-or-made-what-does-effective-leadership-look-like
In a similar vein, I'd really recommend Sam Walker's book The Captain Class where he looks at the most successful sports teams in history and how important their captains were to the success of the teams they led.
Thanks Carl. I have just seen this too on Twitter, Jurgen Klopp's definition of leadership (you'll need to be signed in to view it, and it's well worth a look)...
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