The 21 Non-Negotiable Responsibilities of a Good Captain

(The Encyclopedia of Sports Parenting “List” Series)

Dan Doyle
Dan Doyle
Nov 16, 2015 · 3 min read

The Encyclopedia of Sports Parenting, winner of the ForeWord Book Award and the Independent Publishers Book Award, contains over 100 lists. Many of the lists are attached to bulletin boards and locker rooms throughout the United States and abroad.

On October 31, I posted the Encyclopedia’s 16 Leadership Goals for All Team Members, the first of what will be bi-weekly list postings on Medium. Today’s second list addresses the role of the team Captain.

If your child is elected team captain, it may be helpful to have a discussion about the team captain’s role, beginning with this point: “You may have been elected captain based on your ability as an athlete, not because of your leadership skills.

It is your responsibility as captain to try your best to be a good leader, as well as a skilled athlete. Take advantage of this leadership opportunity by cultivating your leadership skills.

Remind your new captain to meet the 16 leadership goals for all team members, plus understand that to be a good captain, an athlete must devote attention to developing essential non-physical leadership skills. One surveyed leader said it this way: “Just as developing sports excellence requires practice, so too does developing good leadership skills.”

Discuss with your captain the following 21 non-negotiable captain responsibilities:

  1. A good captain encourages teammates to aspire to the 16 leadership goals for all team members.
  2. A good captain is approachable.
  3. A good captain acts as a team sounding board, listens carefully, and in this role helps direct the thinking of teammates toward positive goals.
  4. A good captain takes special care to acknowledge the contributions of those on the bench.
  5. A good captain never shows favoritism or promotes cliques.
  6. A good captain must be at his or her best in the tough times.
  7. A good captain fosters the concept of “sharing the credit.”
  8. Whether the team is on a winning or losing streak, a good captain must demonstrate optimism and inspire hope.
  9. A good captain serves as a link between the coach and team.
  10. A good captain understands that a leader is still a team player.
  11. A good captain works as hard or harder than anyone on the team.
  12. A good captain conveys a belief in oneself and in one’s teammates.
  13. A good captain makes the effort to bond with every team member, including freshmen and sophomores and those with whom the captain has little in common.
  14. A good captain is trustworthy, and by consistently doing the right thing, regardless of the circumstances, fosters and atmosphere of trust.
  15. A good captain conveys the message that an atmosphere of trust does not mean acceptance of improper actions or behaviors by team members.
  16. A good captain observes all team rules, including those on drugs and alcohol.
  17. A good captain conveys the message that bullying or humiliating teammates damages team building and trust.
  18. The best captains are able to achieve an exalted form of leadership called “selfless ambition.” Great captains are able to direct their ambition and passion toward the success of the team, more than toward personal success.
  19. A good captain sets aside personal problems to show genuine concern for teammates in need of support.
  20. A good captain adheres to the highest standards of behavior, recognizing that misbehavior by an athlete can have a ripple effect and damage the athlete, sports program, school and family.
  21. Finally, a good captain sets the goal of doing such an excellent job that his or her captaincy serves as a model for future captains to follow.

Ed note: Many coaches employ the Good Captain list, engaging captains in discussion of three or four responsibilities per session.


The Encyclopedia of Sports Parenting Reception

Mark Murphy, President of the Green Bay Packers, called the book “brilliant.”

Tom Condon of the Hartford Courant wrote, “More wisdom about parenting and not just sports parenting, I have ever seen in one place.” Jim Thompson, Founder of the Positive Coaching Alliance, wrote, “Parents, read this book — your child will thank you.”

Chuck Wielgus, Executive Director of USA Swimming, wrote, “Awesome. USA Swimming completely supports this extraordinary book.”

Famed sports poet, Jack Ridl wrote, “Extraordinary … stunningly thorough.” The book was featured in many articles, including the Boston Globe as well as on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” other ESPN programs, Fox News, Court TV and NBC.


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Dan Doyle

Written by

Dan Doyle

Author of The Encyclopedia of Sports Parenting and An African Rebound. Founder of the World Scholar Athlete Games.