Be Sure You Select The Best Captain Possible For Your Team

Most teams understand the importance of leadership. Getting the right captain and alternates is a major component of  team leadership and can be a key to a team’s success. The captain will likely become the ‘face’ of the team to fans and media. He will be the one the coaching staff relies on to ‘run’ the dressing room and players look to for leadership.

Teams use different strategies to pick a captain. The process can take many forms:

  • Players vote for the team captains
  • Coach picks the best player as captain
  • Th most senior players fill the captain roles
  • Rotate the ‘C’ through the lineup over the course of the season
  • By committee, where everyone gets a say
  • Management selects the captains

Danny Brooks, assistant coach with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL had this to say about what is done with his major junior team.

The three most important aspects to our organization are: 1. work ethic, 2. attitude, 3. discipline.  The captain and assistant captains must have those attributes first and foremost. The captain represents what we want everyday. Our captain is not our best player, but he brings those attributes everyday. He pushes the best players to adopt those attributes. Leadership is something that is groomed. We do something very unique here in Drummondville; we change our assistant captains every month. We reward players for hard work, discipline and attitude. Each player is also a leader in his own right. A player can be a leader in a particular aspect of the game. For example, if you are a banger, you might be the leader of the bangers. In each case all players have ownership in the team. Players are held accountable for the aspect they lead the team in.

Frank Hubley, coaching at the high school level in Nova Scotia, tells us how he selects his captains

I choose the captains. At times I have asked a number of players who they think would make good captains. I ask them ‘why’ and if there are any reasons why any of their choices may not be a good captain for the team.

I have done it where I ask no questions and I pick the captains myself. I have never allowed the players pick the captains. For me it is too much of a popularity contest. Also, I may speak about leadership to the team then ask for 3-4 names of people they think would be good captains. I  have not made up my mind on that way yet.

Jason Lammers, assistant coach with Ohio State, gives us another perspective on the process.

This year we had the guys fill out a questionnaire asking for more information about teammates. For example we asked; who would you want in your foxhole, who is the most committed on and off the ice, and who has the best work ethic. We added up the scores and then decided if we agreed with what the guys thought. It seemed to work really well!

There is no sure-fire way to ensure your team selects the best person as captain. That shouldn’t stop you from doing everything possible to try to make this happen anyway. The right leader could make or break your season.

If you have any suggestion on how to pick captains, please comment on this post,


How Do You Start Your Pre-Season?

Frank Hubley has been coaching for over 30 years, mostly at the high school level. His teams are always competitive and hard working. Frank is an educator and has a Bachelor of Physical Education degree from the University of New Brunswick. Here is how he handles tryouts.

How do you get your tryouts started?  Do you just give out the dates and times and then have players show up for the first ice session?  There are many ways that coaches do the tryout process and it varies between age groups.

Here is one way that I use and find to be very effective.

I have a player meeting prior to going on the ice, typically 5-7 days in advance.  This gives the players and parents some time to think about the things I have said.  At this meeting:

  • players are given the ice times for tryouts.
  • no guarantee anyone a position on the team.
  • I then provide them with an overview of my expectations for them, if they make the team.
  • Players are given a brochure to take home for their parents to read, along with a permission slip.  Why do I do this? The brochure gives the players and parents information on practice times, tournaments, off ice, finances and fundraising.
  • Parents are asked to attend a meeting prior to tryouts.  This meeting is typically 2-3 days prior to the first tryout.

When the parents come to their meeting they now have information on which they can ask questions – if they wish. The brochure serves as a very valuable information tool for me.

At the parent meeting I inform the parents:

  • that ice time is not something I will discuss
  • I am not there to please them but to coach their son
  • they will all contribute to the fundraising projects and that
  • I am the coach- I run the show.

I believe it to be very important for parents to know my philosophy and how the team will be run prior to allowing their son to tryout for the team.  Could you imagine a parent not knowing the cost of playing hockey and their son makes the team and they can’t afford it!

Having a meeting prior to tryouts and gets rid of many problems.  You lay out your beliefs and philosophy.  If they agree, then you have them. If not, then you get the people who want and believe in what you are doing.  As I tell them, 38 students have signed up to try out for the team.  If you as a parent do not like what I say and only 20 players show up on the ice, then I only have to release one player.

Over time I have found this to be a good way of approaching the tryout process.  Everyone knows up front how the ship is going to sail and who is the captain.  I believe this to be very important.

Once the tryouts are finished I have another meeting with the parents whose sons made the team and lay out plans for the year.

Not every league or team can do this but at the High School where I coach this is the way I do it and it works for me.

My suggestion is be up front and firm and things will fall in place.