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The Seven Deadly Sins Of Captaining

Seven Deadly SinsA constant debate in ultimate is how to successfully build a winning program.

Easily the most important person when it comes to starting that process is the captain. Whether he is elected by his teammates or chosen by outgoing leadership, a team’s captain plays a pivotal role not only for the upcoming season, but future seasons as well. Feel free to tailor this article to your specific team, as there are obviously several different types of leadership structures out there.

And while a truly driven and focused leader can propel a program forward to great success, on the other hand, a reluctant or unambitious leader can set a team back several years.

Consider the following major forms of failure in leadership.

Disorganization

“I’m too busy.”

An effective leader cannot have that phrase in his vocabulary. Your team must be a top priority at all times. When you start letting life get in the way (by missing practices, workouts, meetings, etc.), it’s time to reevaluate why you wanted the position in the first place. A successful leader must have his hand in the cookie jar of every part of his team. As that can be a daunting challenge for even the most formidable taskmaster, the importance of delegating responsibilities to capable followers goes hand in hand with maintaining the organization of your team.

Inability To Humbly Serve

You cannot act as if you are above the team. A great leader should be willing to perform any required duty at a moment’s notice. On the field, it is not necessary to be the best at everything, but to demonstrate proper form with the skills you do have. You are the first to show up to practice and the last to leave. You come early to discuss the practice plan and stay late to throw with rookies. A truly great leader commands the greatest respect if he acts as a humble servant to all his followers. If that player is also highly skilled and immensely talented it’s just icing on the cake.

Fear Of Competition

There has not been a single person on this planet that was liked by everyone who knew them. Regardless of who you are, there is going to be someone on your team who thinks he should be captain instead, wanted someone else to be, or just plain doesn’t like any authority figure. It is not your job to figure out who voted against you or even to win over every member of your squad. An able leader should strive to increase the abilities of as many of their teammates as possible. That should be the minimum. 100% approval is often too lofty a dream to reach and I guarantee you there have been players on National Championship teams who hated their captain.

Lack Of Imagination

If you want to achieve more than the minimum, it requires some out of the box thinking. If your university limits the amount of funding or field space you get, don’t just throw up your arms and accept it, look into alternative practice sites and the possibility of using field space you are given or another site to host a tournament to bring in some extra cash. Like it or not, you are not ‘just another player’ on your team anymore. It’s easy to go through the motions all season long. Don’t fall into that trap. Take it upon yourself to expand the reach of your team.

Selfishness

Remember what I just said about not being ‘just another player’ on your team? Well, a really great leader still acts as if he is. You need to be content to honor your teammates and see them receive accolades from others. A leader who claims all the glory for himself or dumps recognition upon his duties will assuredly be resented by his teammates.

Disloyalty

In the same vein, a captain has to be loyal to both his teammates and his position. Lack of loyalty in a leader will breed contempt in not only himself, but the program as a whole. Failing to deliver on promises or goals can cause teammates to lose faith in your ability to lead or even quit on the team totally. Stay truthful to the goals you set and the teammates who have placed their trust in your abilities.

Emphasis Of Title And Authority

The fact that you are ‘captain’ is not impressive. No leader should flaunt his title. A true leader does not need to advertise that fact. It should be immediately visible in the way you conduct yourself on and off the field. An efficient leader is constantly demonstrating that he knows how to do his job and that he does it well. Your authority is meaningless without the trust of your teammates.

Having any one of these faults can result in the failure of your stint as captain. Because of this, a truly great leader is very hard to come by. Every member of your team is forced to make sacrifices over the course of the season, big and small, from the best to the worst player on the roster, and managing every little thing in life can become an overwhelming burden to many. Choosing to lead these people is a task that seems destined to failure. If you aspire to be a great leader, limiting these faults would be a sound first step in having a successful season.

  1. Jesse Kummer
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    Jesse Kummer is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon and is now the coach of the university's men's team, Mr. Yuk. He plays for Dire Wolf and lives in Pittsburgh.

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