Three Questions Every Captain Should Answer
Photo by Nick Lindeke for UltiPhotos
With preparations beginning for the season ahead, many players may be about to begin a captaincy for the first time. We asked GB Women’s co-captain and UAP Premium mentor Hannah Brew what tips she had for those wanting to start their captaincies out on the right foot.
The single most important thing that ensures that you are the best captain you can be is to enjoy doing it.
It’s easy to read countless articles, Google leadership values, and watch videos on how to motivate and bring out the best in others. These are all great resources and will provide you with food for thought, but it’s important to develop your own style that suits both yourself and the team.
When looking at the season ahead, it can be useful to split your role in 3 distinct areas so you can plan around each. This is especially important if you’ve not captained a side before. Then you manage what you can do effectively and not how much you can cram into your first season as a new captain.
Regardless of whether you’re a brand new or experienced captain, make sure your captaincy plans work for you and the team. Ask yourself these three questions:
- What can I give the team?
- What can the team give me?
- How can I still be a player?
They may sound pretty simple, but it’s natural and understandable for new captains to only think about what they can give to the team, and while that’s always a good place to start, the team have to look after you as a captain too. A good captain has a two-way relationship with their team, not a dictatorship—unless that’s what you want! If you create an environment that allows the team to support, encourage, and bring out the best of you in your role, then you can give the same back to them.
Happy captains lead much better than sad captains, and sad captains almost always forget to look after themselves as a player; who wants to repeat that cycle year on year?!
Planning ahead will ensure you are accountable for what you said you wanted to deliver, ensures you manage your time effectively, and almost always guarantees you’ll have an enjoyable season leading your team!
What can I give the team?
Set aside some time to plan your season and write down some achievable goals. There are many acronyms and planning tools you can use but SMART (typically Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, and Time-based) as a good place to start. Assessing your goals using these criteria might lead you to consider issues like:
- Is it a realistic goal and will the team buy into it? Don’t say you want to win Nationals if you’ve never even qualified before.
- How will I support each and every player to work towards our collective goal?
- How will I communicate with my players?
This last question deserves thinking about further. Can you manage a monthly catch up with each player on the team? Or can you make sure there’s a window each week or training session that a player can come talk to me? Do you have an open door policy where players can message you at any point or will you set some time aside to reply to emails from the captains’ email account? Be kind to yourself and be strict with your time. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of being there whenever your players need to talk, but how do you make sure you have downtime?
Looking for new ideas to bring to the table as a returning or first time captain? UAP Classroom membership may be for you! A great resource for captains and coaches alike, it includes access to over 100 talks from previous UAP Conferences. Start your education with the UAP Classroom here.
What can the team give me?
It’s important to remember that you need to get something out of your role too. It’s not just about giving. Be clear with what the team can do for you and give you over the course of the season to ensure you are the best captain you can be. Use the following questions to shape your thinking here:
- What does your team’s feedback system for you as a captain look like? Do you set aside time at trainings or provide the opportunity to give free feedback via email? Do you engage with senior members of the team to share ideas and goals and evaluate your own performance?
- Have you set up clear goals and a strong work ethic for the team? Are they giving you the expected engagement at trainings and attending practices at the rate you expect? Do you have a team charter or a set of collective goals or mantra that every member of the team has agreed to abide by? By ensuring that you start the season with the same expectations where the team know what they have to give to you as a captain, you don’t end up in a position where you want more for the team but haven’t been clear with what your expectations are.
How can I still be a player?
It’s very easy to let the playing side slip when you’re being a captain, or you can go to the other extreme and think that you have to suddenly be the best player on the team. The best players are not always the best captains and the best captains are not always the best players. Don’t suddenly expect that you have to be the best all-rounder that your team has ever seen and deliver the most blocks, assists, and goals every game; you’ll very quickly burn out. Instead, consider how you can strike the right balance between playing and captaining.
- Have I set aside time for me to work on my own playing goals as well as my captaincy goals?
- How much drill time are you giving yourself at trainings vs giving feedback to players?
- Does your team have a coach that can support you in managing the balance between being a player and being a captain? If not, can you set up a playing committee or leadership group to help shoulder some of the responsibility?
The most successful captains I know are the ones that lead with genuine passion for the team and enjoyment of the game. They are there to bring the team together and always make it clear what they expect from you as a player and what you should expect from them as a captain. Being a captain for a team should be one of the most enjoyable experiences in your playing career, so give what you can, be kind to yourself, and most importantly, have fun doing it!
Hannah is a confident thrower who plays women's for UK club side Iceni and is excited to be one of the captains of the GB Women's team for 2019. She's passionate about skills development and improving while having fun. Hannah is available as a mentor to athletes on our UAP Premium program.
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