The 3 C’s of Being a Captain

Larry Lauer, PhD and Kevin Blue
Michigan State University

Major Point: Captains embody 3 C’s in leading their team: Caring, Courageous, and Consistent.  


Being named a team captain is quite the honor. The position of captain is given to those athletes whom the rest of the team respect and trust to lead the team in the right direction. However, with this great honor also comes great responsibility. A captain must be accountable after a bad performance or practice. Captains are expected to perform in the clutch and lead the team to victory. It is also expected that captains will maintain control in the most pressurized situations and be the model of excellence for their teammates. Wow, coaches and athletes expect a lot of captains don’t they? Is it really worth it to be a captain? 

In our opinion, being a captain is one of the greatest honors an athlete can receive. Yet, many athletes take this honor for granted and do not understand the significance of their responsibilities as captain. In fact, in some situations captains may be selected because they are popular amongst their peers rather than being a suitable candidate for the captaincy. Athletes should take the captain’s role very seriously and put some thought on what it means to be an effective captain. In our opinion a good captain should embody the 3 C’s: 

Caring, Courageous, and Consistent.

3 C’s 

Caring:

Great captains have an undeniable passion for the game, for competing, and for their teammates. They put the success of the team ahead of their own needs and are truly concerned with the well-being of all team members. As a caring captain, you should treat all teammates with respect and recognize the contributions made by all team members. If you have a problem with a teammate, you should approach that teammate in private and in a positive way to address the situation and find a solution. The captain should be the one to stop rumor spreading and gossiping. These kinds of behaviors destroy team chemistry.

Courageous:

Captains are willing to step up. As a courageous captain, you must “walk the talk” and you cannot be afraid to compete in the worst of situations. Courageous captains set the example for the rest of the team. Your actions must embody the core values of the team, especially during times of adversity. Be a model of courage and dedication to your teammates by setting lofty goals and working hard to reach them. Finally, as a courageous captain you must show that you trust your teammates and coaches, and are also willing to hold teammates accountable to working hard and being prepared.

Consistent:

Effective captains need to be the model of consistency. To be a consistent captain you need to hold yourself to a standard of giving 100% effort in every practice and game. You cannot cut corners and earn the respect from teammates and coaches that is necessary to lead the team effectively. Consistent captains also have an authentic style of communicating. Some lead by their actions, while others are more vocal. Importantly, to be a consistent captain you must remain true to your own style of communication and not try to be someone else.

If you successfully accomplish these 3 C’s you will earn a 4th C – credibility. Nothing is more important in leading your team into competition than being seen as an authentic, credible leader.

What if you need to develop your 3 C’s?

The good news is that captains can be developed; they are not necessarily born captains. To improve your caring, courageousness, and consistency spend time talking to captains you know. How do they handle certain sticky situations? Also, spend time around good captains and model their best qualities. You can also learn a great deal from reading about great captains such as Steve Yzerman, retired Detroit Red Wing.

Talk to your coaches as well. Find out what they are looking for in a captain and how you can fulfill that role. Finally, take your role seriously. Be willing to do what is right for the team even if it is “not cool”. And, get out and do it. You will learn much on the job including from your mistakes.

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