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How to Win

Your Team Captain

What do you look for in a captain?

At the school where I coach, The Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, NJ, you never have to wonder. Each season the athletic department spells it out with the “Captains Award.”

It’s given out each fall, winter and spring season to “that male or female captain who has exhibited the qualities of leadership, dedication, respect, work ethic, and being a role model both on and off the field to his or her teammates and peers.”

Coaches are invited to make nominations. At Montclair Kimberley, choices in the winter sports are swimming, ice hockey, basketball, and wrestling.

This season’s award went to the basketball captain, whose qualities were beautifully summed up by Coach Tony Jones:

“He was always one of the first to arrive and the last to leave practice and would always stay if his peers wanted to work on aspects of their game or get in some extra shooting.  As if this wasn’t enough, he raised the bar every single practice during the season, challenging his teammates to expect more from each other.  To paraphrase his last comments to the team, this young man told his teammates that they were friends off the court, but adversaries between the lines.  Whether friend or foe, he brought out the very best from everyone around him all of the time and accepts nothing but the best from himself and his teammates.”

Through this entire process — laying out the desired qualities, asking coaches to explain exactly how the athletes meet these qualities, and finally rewarding the athletes with public acknowledgement — the school hopes to develop leaders.

If you’ve been coaching any length of time, you’ve probably had mixed success with captains. Some want the title only for a college or professional resume. Some get elected as a popularity contest. Others simply don’t want any part of confronting teammates when things get lazy or unfocused. This is why at least one coach I know does not even have permanent captains on her team. She picks a captain for each game, depending on their performance in practice.

Giving a captains award reminds everyone that being a captain is more than just a title. It is a vital part of any team’s success.


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