Captain Selection Secrets

For those of you who never played sports, team captain is not just an honorary position for the cutest, most-popular guy or gal on team. (Or for the coach’s son or daughter.) The captain and alternate captains have an actual job, defined by USA Hockey as the players who “shall have the privilege of discussing with the Referee any questions relating to interpretation of rules that may arise during the progress of a game.” (See the complete captain section on page 11 of the 2009-11 Official Rules of Ice Hockey book.)

So who should be the captain? We turned to Captain D of, a USA Hockey Level 5 coach, for help. His site covers everything from rotating captains to development and duties. Here’s an excerpt from his site:

Selection of Captains

Some coaches choose their team captains. Some have the players vote for captains. With older players it may not matter too much. In most cases (although not always) the results will be the same. Why is this? Coaches will choose players who’ve shown good leadership skills. Players also look up to and choose players who’ve shown these traits.

A successful high school coach had an interesting compromise. When asked at a coaches’ seminar how he chose captains for his teams he replied, “We have the kids vote—then the coaches count the ballots.” (He went on to say that in all the many years he had coached, the coaches never had to throw out the vote of the players. They always chose captains that the coaches would have chosen anyway.)

Location, Location, Location

One indicator of leadership potential is easy to spot. Note where players sit in the locker room.

  • The player who sits in the center of the wall across from the door is likely to be a player who is confident, wants attention and is likely to want to be “in charge.” This can be good or bad since some players like this are “bossy” but lack the work ethic and/or respect needed. Keep your eye on these players to see if their confidence and work ethic are both strong.
  • At the opposite end of the spectrum are the players who seat themselves in the corner behind the door. Although they may be very skilled players, they aren’t likely to be leaders.

Naturally, seating arrangements should not be used to automatically determine captaincy, but it is an indicator of players’ temperaments.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that choosing the captain is only the first step. Once chosen, coaches must work with team captains to help them develop and use their leadership skills. “However good a leader a captain may be, the key is finding what makes his teammates willing to follow.”

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Captain D for this story.

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