The Qualities of a Good Sports Captain

In any sport, a team captain can be invaluable if the right person is given the role. Team captains shouldn’t just be the best players on the team or the player that the coach likes the most, it’s about having certain qualities that make that player a good leader and a reliable force on the team. These are some of the most essential qualities for any good sports team captain to possess.


One of the most important things that a team captain must possess is the ability to communicate effectively. Sometimes the players know each other better than the coach does, and this knowledge can be used to effectively communicate to different personalities on the team. But they need to not be afraid to be vocal. Sometimes it’s the coaches job to communicate, other times, it’s the players’ responsibility and the captain can be crucial in that process. A good leader should never shy away from sharing their opinion and stepping up to be that voice if they feel like it is the right time to do so. This needs to happen both on and off the field. Often times other players look to the captain for advice and support and so the captain needs to be able to provide that. They need to know when it’s their turn to speak and when it might be more valuable for another player to step up or when it’s the coaches turn to speak. The best captains are able to understand when and how to be vocal with their teammates and coaches. The best captains are good communicators with a variety of different personalities.


One of the key aspects to being a good captain that will be discussed later on is role modelling. One of the most important things that a captain must be able to role model is bravery and courage. Captains need to not be afraid to be the person that steps up and take matters into their own hands. They can’t be hiding in the crowd and they can’t be afraid to step up and be the leader of the team. It’s both the captain and the coach’s job to set the tone for each and every practice and game. If the captain isn’t willing to give their best effort and step up and be a leader, who else is going to do it? If the captain isn’t brave enough to play with intensity right from the very first whistle, who else is going to do it? The captain needs to be courageous and brave in order to captivate the rest of the team and role model the proper behaviours needed from everyone else each and every game.


Perhaps maybe an overlooked quality by many, the captain of any team in any sport needs to be passionate about the sport and what they are doing. They need to want to be there. They need to want to give their best effort at all times. If they don’t have that passion, that drive, that can set the tone for the rest of the players in a really negative way. If other players on the team can feel the passion of their captain, they are far more likely to feel a sense of camaraderie and team spirit. If the captain doesn’t care, they won’t be able to captivate the other players in the same positive manner. Passion is essential to a good sports captain.


Another essential quality of a sports captain is to be a team player. Captains need to be selfless individuals and be willing to put their ego aside. But being a team player goes far beyond that. In any sport where there’s a captain involved; whether it be basketball, soccer, hockey or even rowing, it’s all about the team. Team sports are team sports for a reason. No matter how good you are, you can’t win a team sport as an individual. Captains need to not only understand that, but be able to communicate that message to other members of the team too. Good captains should also be knowledgeable on how to help other players on the team in specific situations, whether it be something about the sport, or something about a players’ effort and attitude. They need to be aware of who on the team might be struggling and they need to have a desire to want to help them. Being a team player goes beyond just being selfless, it’s also about being a leader and being someone other players can always rely on.


It’s been touched upon in almost all of the above, but it is absolutely vital for a team captain to be a role model and leader for the rest of the team. Good captains need to have the credibility. They should be players or personnel that other members of the team already look up to and go to for advice. They should be able to lead warm-ups, team cheers and perhaps even chime in with a motivating team talk every now and then. They need to be a leader and a role model on the field through being vocal and setting the right tone, while also being a leader off the field. This can be achieved by behaving in the right manner, saying the right things and discouraging any unhealthy conflict on the team. When someone’s not having a good day, the captain can be crucial in helping raise that player’s spirits again. When the coach is need of extra assistance, the captain can also be crucial in stepping up and offering support. There are different types of leaders too. Some lead by example, some lead through their voice. That’s fine. Whatever the style is, the captain needs to be a vocal presence, and most importantly someone everyone else can look up to.


The best thing that players seeking to become captain can do is to involve themselves in as many leadership positions as possible. Whether it be helping the coach, being vocal on and off the field or involving themselves in leadership roles outside of the sport, they need to get involved. Players wishing to become captain of their teams should also involve themselves in the sport as much as possible, whether it be through playing, watching professional leagues or watching other players their age. Some fantastic examples of captains in the game of football are Manchester City duo Vincent Kompany and Steph Houghton. Athletes can watch what kind of situations these players involve themselves in and how they engage their teammates. The role of the captain is different from the role of the coach and the best way to learn what it takes, other than through practice, may be to watch experienced others and how they operate in the role.

For ideas of how to take their leadership to the next level, players can see our Player Development Card – Leadership, Teamwork & Positivity.


Generally speaking captains should be introduced around the “Active for Life” stage of player development in sports – around 13 years old. Rotating everyone through the captain position and calling on a multitude of different leaders at any given time may be an effective way to get younger players interested and knowledgeable about the role. It can help them understand what is required of effective leaders and even give the coach the opportunity to assess which players are the vocal figures, the leaders of the team. The earliest I would introduce a permanent captain (or two) would be at 11 years old. However, that would likely be a more extreme circumstance where I really felt like I wanted a specific leader on the team to be a leader for a specific reason, such as not having an assistant coach and wanting specific players to almost fill the role instead. The more mature players are, the better they will be at being captain and the better they will be at saying the right things. So it’s important to be careful about introducing it too early. You might think players are ready for that challenge and that kind of leadership role; but if they can’t communicate effectively and don’t know how to lead in certain situations, there’s little reason to introduce it. Before a captain should be introduced, players should have reached a certain developmental stage and a certain level of maturity. If done right, the role of the captain can be a lot of responsibility and players need to be ready to take that on before being put in that position.

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