The regular readers of this blog know that I while I was studying Sport Psychology at John F. Kennedy University in California, that I worked with a high school baseball team and that team went undefeated for the first time in the school’s 40 year history.
I remember having horrible allergies during their season, sneezing and blowing my nose every chance I got. But I remained consistent showing up for their practices and games. I honestly never thought anything of it but during the team’s award ceremony the players and their parents recognized that commitment and playfully presented me with an award – two boxes of allergy medication.
What I learned both with that team and my extra studies in the business classroom is that building relationships and giving direction is extremely important for improving players performance.
Collegiate Athletes, when they take on a captain/leadership role tend to think only on gaining and keeping their relationships with each other. This is true perspective but it is not a full one. Having good relationships is the glue that can increase the bonding feelings teammates feel and opens up the willingness for others to listen to you.
The reason those high school boys listened to my mental skills knowledge is because I built that rapport with them. But I had to also be willing to tell them where they need to grow mentally. What is the risk of telling others where they need grow? The relationship.
To grow as a captain there must be a willingness to lead others towards the character values that make the program better (i.e. diligence, goal-oriented, consistent work ethic, persistence etc.)
It’s no secret in life, no one really wants to be called out. But as a captain you can not weigh the good feelings of relationship(“keeping the peace”) over team growth. This is why the most important competency of a captain is communication…of course taking into consideration that you took the time to build relationships.
The captain is the liaison between the coach and the rest of the team so the major part of communication needed is listening.
Here are two things you should be listening for:
1) The role that the player thinks they ought to be playing
As captain you must get to know the mind of your teammates and their rationale. It is only when a person feels listened to and understood that you can speak into their lives. Until they feel heard they will not hear you.
2) The specific role that the coach wants each player to perform
As captain you must know what the coach is looking for, performance-wise, in every player including yourself. The general role of a captain is to help the team align not only their mind-set but their actions with what the coach wants. This will be tough and this is where task direction is needed. This is where the relationship may go through some straining. Navigating through the straining is done with the skill of listening.
Here is one major TIP of listening. Try paraphrasing what your teammates are saying to you so that you can receive the right message they are trying to get across. Doing this one thing will increase the chance of them listening to you as you attempt to get them to align with the vision of the coach.
If you can learn how to do that, you are well on your way to becoming an awesome leader.