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How to Spot Your Next Team Captain

By TrueSport, 08/21/18, 2:15PM CDT


Becoming captain of a sports team can be a great leadership experience for young athletes, particularly when coaches work proactively to prepare them for success. Rick Swan, Head Volleyball Coach at Colorado College, has been coaching for more than 20 years. With 20 consecutive NCAA appearances as coach, he knows what it takes to be an outstanding leader on the court.

Here are Coach Swan’s top four tips on how to prepare student-athletes to be great team captains.


Look for Key Leadership Traits

Some athletes are more inclined to become leaders than others, and that is okay. The key traits Swan recommends in potential team captains include:

  • A tireless work ethic: It’s not necessarily the athlete who can endure the greatest physical workload, but rather the athlete who is committed to performing all the necessary steps – day in and day out – to maximize individual and team performance.
  • Passion for the team and its success: A great captain wants the whole team to perform at its best, and views his or her success as a direct connection to the team’s success.
  • Confidence and composure: An athlete with great leadership potential is calm under pressure, can stay focused, and doesn’t let frustrations become distractions.


Start Early

Developing effective leaders takes time, so Coach Swan recommends starting with young players as soon as they join the team. At Colorado College, he integrates freshmen into the leadership team so they can learn from more experienced teammates and start taking on meaningful leadership tasks early on. It’s also important to create an environment where leadership roles are accessible for all athletes because some great leaders find their voice and confidence later than others.


Encourage Strong Relationships

Older players have tremendous knowledge to pass on to younger players, but at the high school and college level, four years can seem like an impassable age difference. Freshmen may be intimidated by juniors and seniors, while the more experienced players may be reluctant to welcome new teammates. To break down these barriers and shape leaders throughout the team, Coach Swan suggests:

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About TrueSport

TrueSport® is a grassroots movement born and powered by the experience and values of USADA–the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. The TrueSport® mission is simple and bold: to change the culture of youth sport by providing powerful educational tools to equip young athletes with the resources to build the life skills and core values for lasting success on and off the field.

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