Leaders are made, not overnight and not without effort. I had the opportunity to be the captain of ten teams throughout my career and, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, these are a few of the things I wish I had known.
You were chosen/elected as captain because of who you are, don’t feel the need to change yourself now just because you are a captain.
Whether captains are voted on by the team, picked by the coach or some combination of the two, this leadership role is given to people who are believed to be able to handle it from the start. While you may grow in a different way because of the challenges you face as a leader, you were chosen because of who you already are.
Being a captain is an opportunity to ride the wave into battle first, it may not be pretty, but you will come out on the other side changed for the better.
When things are going badly, make sure to take care of your own game first.
This might sound funny, but think of airplanes and how you have to put your air mask on before you help the person next to you. The role of captain does not mean you can win games on your own, and it will make things worse if you try. Stay positive about your own skills and let that translate in the words you share with your teammates. Even if your own game doesn’t turn around completely, with words of encouragement, your teammates' game might and you can still pull out the win.
We just need to ride out these lows and be ready to take advantage of our opportunities, they will come, they always do.
Individualize each team you are on.
Every player enters a new season differently from the player they were last season. This means that every team is unique from the previous one and it will benefit you to treat it as such. A new team can be celebrated in numerous small ways that can help new players and returners all feel like they are a significant part of this team. A couple ideas are a new type of cheer to break a huddle, different warm up drills, and/or new hitting plays that value the strength of the players on this team.
You will never be in this place again, playing the sport you love with this team, the team that has become your family, cherish this moment.
Spend more time leading than worrying about leading.
This one strikes very deep with me because it dips into my most difficult season as a captain. I’m not going to go into many personal details because it was not my situation that caused my struggle, but the way I reacted to things. The internal questioning of “Am I doing the right thing?” can consume a captain, especially when their team is losing. While it may feel like you have to stress about leading, words are weak compared to action and in this case the best action you can fall back on is your volleyball skill. Sweat your worries away with some extra touches, invite your teammates and have some fun, you are playing a game after all.
What if we don’t look at stress as the enemy? But as the signal to get up and change our current situation, and the only way to do that is through action