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Demonstrating Leadership as a High School Sports Captain

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There is no question that leading other people is not easy. Whether it means taking charge in a group project for school, putting together a fundraiser or a volunteer event, or even coordinating social plans on a Friday night, it can be at times difficult and time-consuming to try to get people to listen to you and work together to benefit the group as a whole.


This being said, for all the trials and tribulations that one might have to go through in a leadership position, there are usually many benefits as well. This is certainly the case in high school sports. Becoming a team captain for your high school sports team can be a fulfilling experience that offers many professional and personal benefits. Read on to find out more about how you can set a model for leadership as a sports captain.


Introduction to Leadership in Sports

Every sport is different in the amount of teamwork it requires, but even more individual sports teams (like wrestling and tennis) train together and have a certain team dynamic. Whether it is an individualized or a team sport, all sports can benefit from having a student leader, and so high school sports teams usually have a student captain.


Many high school sports teams have a captain in addition to a professional coach because student athletes might have a better rapport with their teammates than an adult coach. Although a coach might be able to relate to students more than a teacher or another authority figure, there is no question that student captains will obviously have more common ground with other students.


For students who are chosen to be captains, taking on a leadership position can also be helpful for college applications—admissions committees want to see students who are able to take on responsibility and work well with others. For more information about taking on leadership roles, check out this CollegeVine blog post.


Becoming Captain of Your Sports Team

Typically, the process of becoming captain of your high school sports team will vary from school to school. Usually, the process will depend upon some combination of the opinion of your peers and the opinion of your coaches. For example, the team might have a vote to determine candidates, and the coach might make the final designation. For clarification of your specific school and team’s procedures, you should ask your coach.


If you’re seeking out a leadership position on your team, it is in your best interest to make sure you are well-respected and well-liked by your team members. Show up to events on time and make an effort to engage with all members of the team (not just the members who might happen to be your friends). Offer to help others on your team out, and be sure that you’re not a show-off or a ball hog.


You should also make sure that you are an experienced and solid performer in your sport—although this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be the very top player on the team.


In addition, it will be helpful if you display dedication and visibly work hard towards team goals. If the team is looking to improve its strategy, you should be helping to make these changes. If there are conflicts within your team that need to get resolved, get involved and help your team members talk it out. You should also be trustworthy and work well with your coach—if you do end up becoming captain, you’ll be working hard alongside him or her, so you want to demonstrate that you can handle the responsibility and helpful to both your team members and your coach.   


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Leadership on the Field

One major aspect of demonstrating leadership as a sports captain is being a leader on the field, on the court, or in the gym. This means taking responsibility for tasks delegated to you by your coach—these tasks will vary a lot from team to team, so be sure to ask your coach if you’re not sure what is required of you or what will be helpful. Be sure that you provide direction and encouragement to your teammates during training and practice sessions. You should also try to give substantive feedback that others can use to improve. Try to think of how you can benefit the team as a whole, not just how you can give yourself opportunities to shine.


In addition, you should try to come to understand the strengths and weaknesses of different team members in order to help craft and support a successful overall strategy. Lastly, one of the most important ways you can lead is to set a good example—pay attention to your coach and be sure to show them respect, play fair, and be sure to show good sportsmanship even when a game or event doesn’t necessarily go your way.


Leadership off the Field

While there are many ways in which you can demonstrate your leadership skills on the field, there are also ways that you can do this off the field. First of all, you can maintain the expectations of good behavior and practice what you preach. This might mean taking the high road where others might be tempted to do something immature (perhaps something like making fun of the members of a competing team).


You should also try to set a good example for maintaining academic performance and balancing priorities as a student athlete. This might mean staying in on a Friday night to study for a test because you know you’ll have training all weekend, or it might mean working on your homework together with teammates before or after practice.


It may also be wise to maintain close relationships with other members of the team and to encourage others to do the same—not only can social tensions impede the athletic performance of a team, but they can also be unpleasant for any and all of the teammates involved! Remember that if there’s a problem between two or more members of your team, it is always best to try and communicate in order to resolve the issue rather than remaining passive aggressive and allowing tensions to worsen.


In general, if you want to demonstrate leadership as a high school sports captain, you should strive to be someone that your team members can emulate and look up to. Perhaps you have a personal hero of your own in athletics or otherwise—think of this individual and ask yourself what they might do in a given situation involving your team.


In order to demonstrate leadership both on and off the field, it is most important that you lead by example. Continue to be the type of team member that thinks about the entire group rather than just him or herself, and be respectful to your coach as well. While taking on the role of team captain might be difficult and straining at times, there is no question that with proper consideration and dedication, this role can be very beneficial both to you personally and to your teammates.


For more information about leadership roles and student athletics, check out these blog posts:


Your Resume, Revamped: Securing Leadership Positions and Perfecting your Extracurricular Profile

A Guide to Leadership Roles in Music Groups

Leading Your School’s Chapter of UNICEF Club

Extracurricular Activities for Student Athletes


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Devin Barricklow
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Devin Barricklow is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Columbia University. She’s really excited to be able to share her expertise about the college process with students who need advice. When she isn’t writing for CollegeVine, she enjoys reading the poems of Mary Oliver, going to concerts in the city, or cooking (preferably something with lots of bok choy and ginger).