Oh captain, my captain: Sports leaders should emphasize respect, hard work, integrity

Captains of Gull Lake sports teams are selected at the beginning of each season. For track and cross country, potential captains nominate themselves before the team votes. For other sports, captains are chosen by the coaches. Photo courtesy of Charmaine Hostetler.

I’ve participated school athletics since my freshman year, so I’ve seen my fair share of excellent sports captains. However,  I’ve also witnessed the leadership of captains who, in my opinion, could have been better equipped for their role. As spring sports wind down and students anticipate next fall’s season, athletes need to understand that the role of a captain is not one to be taken lightly.

The attitude, character and discipline of a captain affects the success and unity of the team. A captain should show respect for everyone involved in the sport: teammates, coaches and referees. They should have a strong work ethic, practicing with the same effort as they would display in competition. Captains must genuinely support and encourage all of their teammates, not just their best players or closest friends. They should be present at all practices and competitions, making their sport and their team a priority. They should be willing to do the right thing always, even when no one is watching.

Respect is a key pillar in the character of a good sport’s captain. Younger teammates learn by example, and if they see captains, or even upperclassmen who aren’t in leadership positions, showing disrespect for each other and contempt for authority, they will pick up similar behaviors.

A captain does not have to be the most skilled athlete on the team, but they should be among the hardest working. I can’t stress this enough. It is a captain’s responsibility to finish even the most challenging of workouts completely and thoroughly. Even if they don’t feel like participating in practice, captains cannot grumble or complain–or the entire team will begin to do so. Laziness is already an undesirable feature in any kind of leader–but in a sport’s captain whose success virtually relies on effort, the trait is even less acceptable.

Just like a captain does not have to be the most athletic on the team, they they don’t necessarily need to be the most outgoing–nor do they have to be best friends with every single teammate. Expecting such would be unrealistic. I’ve observed some quiet leaders who have made excellent captains. However, a captain should genuinely support and encourage each player, regardless of grade, skill level or popularity. More importantly, captains should make a sincere effort to get to know their teammates throughout the entire season, not simply during the first week before they are selected.

A captain should be flexible and dedicated to attending all practices and competitions. They should know their schedule before running for an important leadership position on the team and shouldn’t run if there are major conflicts.  Captains should prioritize their team above other extracurricular and social activities and should rarely (or never) miss practice.

Good sports captains value honesty and integrity above all else. They obey all rules set forth by their school and their coaches, and never seek out unfair advantages to set them apart from their competitors. They take their learning seriously, never forgetting that they are a student first and an athlete second. Their sincerity should never be questioned–captains should set the bar high when it comes to standard morals for the team.

This being said, I understand it’s nearly impossible for a captain to meet all these standards all the time. Even captains have bad days–times when they don’t feel like being positive, or completing a workout with enthusiasm, or showing complete respect for referees. Captains will fall short sometimes–whether they utter a complaint under their breath or miss a practice every once in awhile.

However, a captain should never cease evaluating themselves as a leader. They should constantly look for new ways to serve and encourage the people around them, whether they’re coaches, teammates or competitors.

Annie Thorn

Annie Thorn

This is my first year on staff at the Reflection. I enjoy running track and cross country. I also spend a lot of time volunteering at Gracespring and the Richland Community Library. After I graduate this year, I hope to go to college and pursue a career in public history.

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