Choosing a captain for a youth football team can be a challenging but rewarding task for coaches. There are many different approaches coaches take when selecting their team captain, and we’ve gathered a few of the most popular methods from a question we asked in the Facebook Group ‘Grassroots Coaching Drills’ recently.
This was prompted by a tweet (below) we spotted by David Bentham, featuring his Runcorn Linnets JFC U8s mentioning how they selected and rotated their team captain during the season.
David had tweeted that they rotate the captain’s armband every few weeks, with the previous captain gives a short speech to explain why they chose their replacement as the next captain. He said that this helps his players develop their leadership skills, gives them confidence and improves communication on the field.
The question we posed was how other coaches approach team captaincy and if it differed as they progressed through age groups. We collated some of the responses we received that we thought might provide some inspiration to coaches and parents for their own child's teams.
A few opted for a permanent team captain for the season.
Steven Waddleton, who coaches at U12 level, has a permanent captain and a vice-captain. The vice-captain takes over as captain the following season and the team votes for a new vice-captain who will then become the next captain. This system has been running since the team was at U9 level.
Jason Rossiter, who coaches at U12 level, has a permanent captain and two vice-captains. At the start of the season, he held trials to pick the captain based on leadership, confidence, and other important factors. The team captain then has a say on who will become the new vice-captains. It's his first season trialling this, but so far, so good.
Mathew Brown, who coaches a dual team at U8 level, rewards the player who received the “Leader of the Year” award with the captain’s armband for the upcoming season. The captain also gets some special perks, such as when his kids were mascots for local men's team, and not all could walk out with the players. They did a random name draw for all the players except the captain. By default, he got to walk out with the men's team captain.
Oscar Arrieta Corona, who coaches a U15 team, has two permanent captains. At the beginning of the season, he shared what he was looking for in a captain (leadership, confidence, etc.) to bring into light those players who wanted the responsibility and could handle it. He notes that this approach has worked great for him but he would not do it at younger ages.
Nagel J Ted has his players submit three names each, and he chooses from those options. He notes that this way, he has the ability to overrule "popularity votes,". Personally he doesn't believe in captains for U14 and below, so a game captain was just a reward.
The majority of coaches who responded seemed to rotate their team captain using a variety of methods during the season. However the majority were also at the younger age groups which might have skewed the numbers.
Edgar Ross, who coaches at U8 and U10 level, lets the players decide which player will be the captain each game. The players choose amongst themselves who will lead the team for the next match.
Matt Bell, who coaches an U10 team, decides which player will be captain each week based on their effort and attitude at training. The coaches hand over the captain’s armband at the end of the training session, which he said the boys love as they enjoy the suspense.
Trainer of the week seemed to be a popular method, with John Goode, Chris Jones, Matty Paskin, Jason Aldous and Mike Tunnicliffe responding to say they also choose their captain each week this way.
Martin Thomas also considers attendance at, and attitude during training, and crucially also mentioned the fundamental of the chosen captain's availability for the next game on the Saturday, making up his three foundations to select a captain from. Always important to remember that last one!
Joe Stephenson, who coaches a U10 team, rotates the captain each week. The previous captain discusses the selection with one of the coaches, who chooses the next captain based on a variety of factors, including the best technical player, the best skill in the game, and the player who would benefit most from the extra responsibility.
Ian Taylor uses a system where he gives out a Player of the Match (POTM) award and an Assistant POTM award each week, and the following week he rewards the captaincy to the child who received POTM the week before. He added that having a second award as an extra bonus ensures that they don't give the trophy to the same child every week.
Michael Exton runs 2 teams and differed his approach for each, with his U11 team swapping captains each week, but for his U12 team, the girls voted for their dedicated team captain with clear criteria set. And for cup matches he picks someone else, with the permanent captain's help.
In conclusion, choosing a captain for a youth football team is a task that requires careful consideration and can greatly impact both each individual child, as well as the overall team. The main decision is initially whether you rotate the captaincy each game or if you select a permanent captain. It's then how the captain is selected, and if it's an adult's choice, or if you involve your players in the decision-making process. The key is to find a method that works best for your team's culture.
We hope these help you if you've still not settled of your preferred method, or you're looking to evolve it as you move up to a new age group.
If you do already have a method that works, or have tried different ones, we'd love you to hear how you select a captain for your junior football team, what age group you're at, and why you think your method works best for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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