Being a Captain Isn’t a Popularity Contest

Erin Campbell, Special to The Big Red

Playing sports is something I’ve always loved. I’ve played as a kid and continue to do so as a high school student. I have made many memories on a soccer and lacrosse field. It is not until I reached high school that I realized there is so much more to playing a sport than being fast and skilled on the field.

Yes, those components are essential, but I have learned that being on a structured team is the most important factor in having fun and being successful during the season.

Many people would argue this is solely a truism, but I would say that it’s very true: there is no ‘i’ in ‘team’. This essence of teamwork is communicated by the coaches but should be built and led by the captains.

In the past, I have had good captains and some weren’t great role models. Many of the athletes who have led my teams to victories also were great leaders as well as great players. They were people who worked hard and put the team’s success before their own.

Other captains have lacked the ability or interest in enforcing teamwork, including everyone, and communicating in a positive way with the team.

Being a captain is so important and leaders should not be chosen based on popularity. Some players are elected to be a captain because of the number of friends they have on the team. Some others are chosen by virtue of how skilled they are on the field.

Skills and good relationships with others are helpful, but having strong leadership qualities is even more important. The choice shouldn’t be made with bias.

I was voted the captain of my soccer team for this fall season of girls varsity soccer. If I’m going to be completely honest, I had no idea why I was chosen. Yes, I was a starting player and I knew many girls on the team, but I wondered if I was truly fit to be a leader?

When the season started, I  struggled with the idea of being a captain. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what would make our team dynamic and how I could help foster that. I was stuck and wanted this to be a great season, but I wondered what I could do to make that possible.

The fall sports meeting came about, and my fellow captains and I received bittersweet news. Ms. Jessica Winders announced an online course and class that all captains were required to take in order to keep their captaincy.

Of course, I was hesitant about spending three hours watching videos on leadership. But, the program she showed us wasn’t pointless banter like many thought it would be. In the end, I learned a tremendous amount about the skills I needed in order to lead my team.

I had a whole new perspective on what it meant to be a captain. During the course, I learned that it is important to build team unity, to challenge the team to be focused, and to also be confident in yourself as a leader.

None of these qualities are dependent on how many friends you have or how many goals you’ve scored. This course was extremely helpful and I did not expect it to change the way I thought, but the videos and questions were effective.

I now know how to lead with confidence as I help to build my soccer team; keeping them focused on unity and a common purpose. An outstanding record is not my goal. Creating structure and a positive environment for my girls that makes them want to be present in a game and in practice is what I strive for as a captain.

There are many programs and websites that can assist other student athletes that struggle with leading a team.

I argue that schools across the country should begin enforcing a captains’ course to teach kids about leadership. Captains are so important in providing leadership for the teams of a community. I believe that captains should not be chosen by way of a popularity contest but rather should be a process where selfless, confident leaders are identified for the good of the team.