Sports teams, at any level, are in large part metaphors for professional work teams or other real-world situations. Likewise, leadership responsibilities often need to be delegated at least somewhat to maintain social and productive order. More importantly, competitive sports are intense and require teamwork in every facet for any team to be successful. This includes appointing a proper second-in-command at your players’ level, a team captain. A team captain plays various roles and has multiple responsibilities to consider, which is why the position can’t just be handed out or earned by popularity. Most teams will function better and more fluidly with a team captain working in tandem with the coach to ensure there’s properly respected leadership on and off the field. Here are some reasons why you should always consider appointing a team captain.

A Teammate vs. A Coach

You can be the best coach in the world, but it’s almost guaranteed you won’t be able to completely relate to your players as much as they can relate to each other. That’s a crucial point to consider when balancing your team dynamic, and something that can be made much easier with a proper leader among the players. There are some issues both in-game and outside of it that would be better addressed by the players themselves. A team captain allows you to delegate issues like these to them, and create that environment of acceptance and approachability that the players could need. This can range from team issues to personal issues and more, and can establish a sense of camaraderie that will leave players feeling comfortable with each other and with their position on the team.

Likewise, there are certain things that you can try to convey that might just translate better if delivered by a player to their teammates. This is where a strong team captain can come in handy. There are only so many different ways you can try to hammer home the fundamentals, and only so many different drills you can run. It’s likely that, in real-time situations, someone on the field, court, or rink will have to be the one to remind other players of the things they’ve worked on. Something about it coming from someone in their situation rather than the mentor or external authority adds a certain level of urgency that is tangible amongst the players. So when it feels like you’ve done what you can as a coach to help the players have the tools to succeed, a team captain may be what your team needs to reinforce those concepts and grow.

A Young Leader

Team captains are symbolic, especially for younger teams. For some, being appointed captain can be their first preview into the world of leadership, and it’s important that they understand the magnitude of responsibility that comes with being put in a position of authority like that. It’s your responsibility as coach to provide the most positive and personally enriching experience for your players throughout their season. Sometimes, that can mean offering privileges to those who deserve the next step, such as that position of leadership. You should be walking them through the responsibilities and helping them learn proper leadership skills along the way so they can emerge a better player, leader, and person.

That is to say again, teams are only as strong as their leadership. A strong coach can be a mentor for the players and provide them with countless tools and techniques to help them succeed in-game and beyond. A strong captain can be a presence on the field that reinforces those concepts and sets the example for conduct and level of play for the whole team. Having that anchor to rely on takes a ton of responsibility away from you as a “babysitter” of sorts and allows you to focus more on your other duties as coach and mentor. It may not seem like much, but that separation of roles can add just enough simplicity to allow everything else in the team’s machine to run smoothly.

A Crucial Energy

Team captains are some of the most important presences you can have in-game to push your team forward toward success. It’s common knowledge that humans can accomplish more when working together, and it’s human nature in itself for people to want to rally around a person or cause. It makes people feel as though they’re involved with something bigger than themselves, which in turn can make them feel obligated to contribute how they can best. Having a specific person to rally around on the field only intensifies that, as it personalizes (and personifies) that rallying cause for each team. Of course, that makes their energy and how they convey it in-game crucial toward the team’s identity, but that’s something that can be worked on over time, especially in younger leaders. The short-term and long-term benefits of having that unifying cause have been tried and tested in other organizations and situations similar to a sports team, and applying the concept there is a surefire step toward success.

If sports teams truly are machines when working at their best, then team captains are the one cog that makes the whole thing turn a bit faster. While it may be hard to find the right captain in different situations, it’s important to at least try to delegate a player for the others to rally around somehow. It’s beneficial for their experiences as players and members of the team, and can be the beginnings of a powerful future leader.