What do the teams of Milan late ‘80s early 90s, the treble winning Manchester United ’99, the Invisible Arsenal ’04 and the all conquering Barcelona of between ’09-’12 have in common? Undoubtedly they had a group of magnificently gifted individuals from front to back, as well as having exceptional managers (Arrigo Sacchi, Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Pepe Guardiola). However, one key attribute to any truly great side is an influential captain (Franco Baresi, Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira and Carlos Puyol). A captain influences the wellness of a team more than any other player and their words, along with their actions can drive a team to previously unscaled heights. Young Pro have put together a list of the vital attributes needed to lead your team, as well as a couple of tips on how to become a great captain for yourself.
- Setting an example – the simple reality is nobody listens to a hypocrite! As captain you will be asking your teammates to run the extra mile for the team, to make last ditch tackles, risk colliding with a post in order to score and to keep their heads with the referee, the manager, the opposition and even your other teammates. The only way to give yourself any chance of being listened to is to lead by example. The example you set puts you in a strong position to ask for the same from the rest of the team.
- Communication – arguably the most important, but certainly the most obvious attribute on this list. During the game it is vital to maintain a near constant dialogue with your teammates to ensure that they are are carrying out the match plan, as well as keeping them motivated. Although the manager can call from the touchline a captain can maintain and command organisation on the pitch. Before and after the game a captain can talk to the players and ensure that they are focused for either the game that they are about to play or prepared for the next one.
- Relationship with the manager – because a captain becomes the ‘manager on the pitch’ it is important he provides a bridge between the rest of the squad and the manager. As captain you should understand the manager’s plan in order to assist him with implementing his plans on the pitch. Also, my building a relationship with them you are in a better position to communicate with your teammates.
- Relationship with every member of the squad – it is vital that there is a strong bond in any dressing room and this relies a great deal on the character of the captain. It is their responsibility to forge a relationship with every member of the squad to gain a greater understanding of how to motivate them on the pitch, as well as understanding the issues they may be having. By building these relationships you are more likely to maintain a positive atmosphere in the changing room, which often translates into positive results on the pitch.
- Learn from your mistakes – this attribute is vital to anyone in a leadership position and it relates closely with the first point on setting an example. Every player will make mistakes and as painful as they can be they are also vital for learning. As captain when you make a mistake it is crucial to pick yourself back up, admit fault and learn from it. The respect you will gain from your teammates by doing so will allow you to push them harder and to higher heights on the pitch.
- Never give up – no matter the scoreline a captain should fight to the last for his team. It a team’s darkest hours it is often the captain alone that lifts them. Think of Steven Gerrard leading Liverpool’s charge when they were 3-0 in the Champions League final in 2005, if a captain keeps on fighting their team inevitably will too.
- Listen to your teammates – whether at training or in a match start asking your teammates about the biggest issues they are facing at your club. Through understanding your teammates you are better equipped to lead them and taking an interest in their struggles breeds a powerful loyalty.
- Look at the bigger picture – as a player it is easy to become blinkered, only concerned with what your job is on the pitch. As a captain begin to think of the stresses and strains on the team as a unit and you will be able to identify the weaker spots. By identifying the weaknesses of the unit you can begin to plan on how to improve them.
- Train harder – nothing sets a greater example or inspires others around you like training hard. By working harder at training and where possible training for longer, you will often find that the rest of the groups levels go up as well.
Dominic Smith – Follow @DominicSmith3 on Twitter