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10 Steps to Captain a Team to Victory

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For some reason, you accepted the team captaincy. It could be an act of selflessness or quite probably one of moronic proportions. To maintain your sanity, remember a few things: It’s a thankless job. Everyone believes that they could do it better. And at times, cleaning a beach would be easier. But it’s not impossible, and, if you follow some advice, it can be pretty successful.

1. Screen the Candidates

More than gathering players, you want a team with depth and flexibility. Send out a group e-mail, asking when everyone prefers to play—every week, half the games, no preference, and so on. Keep the size of your team small. For instance, 12 guys for an 8-man lineup is easier to manage and you can always add, says Doug Hastings, a USTA captain. Have two ultra-reliable players who you can call last minute and basically order to play.

2. Lead by Example

From the first game, refrain from trash talking or sniping at referees. If others start, cool it down. “If you’re intense but keep a good nature about it, that rubs off,” says Greg Colegrove, a 4-on-4 flag football captain. You want to build a solid reputation and maintain good relationships, and not be the team that no one wants to help, because eventually you’ll need the help.

3. Set Expectations Early

Promise that everyone will see some playing time, but state that the intent is putting out the best lineup and winning the division. It’ll provide the guidance and cover for difficult decisions, and it’ll provide motivation to improve, says Ken Slovin, a USTA captain.

4. Book Offline

Organize regular court time—yes, it’s up to you—because the weekly match isn’t sufficient for championship goals. Practices will allow you to see possible pairings, build camaraderie, and, if you bring in a pro for drills, the focus can be on improving rather than just falling back on what’s reliable to win, Slovin says.

5. Send Out Recaps

It’ll keep everyone involved and invested. Be concise, but mention good shots, winning strategy—it’s a way of stressing what’s important without speechifying—and dole out ample recognition. “How often as a 40-year-old do you get to read about yourself?” Hastings says.

6. Let Them Decide

When momentum shifts in a bad way, call a timeout and ask, “What would be best right now for the team to succeed?” In basketball, for instance, they’ll realize that more size down low is needed and chances are high that one guy will take himself out, because the open question allows him to still feel central to the team. “Keep it all about the team. It diffuses problems,” says Jim Goulet, captain of a 35-and-over basketball team.

7. Make Nice with the Head Pro

He can be a pipeline for players and help with any strategy question or league issue, Garufi says. Include him on all the e-mails so he’s always in the loop. It’s his club, and when the team does well, he looks good, Hastings says.

8. Solicit Feedback

Follow-up with guys about partners and ask about potential lineups. You’ll learn who works well together and diffuse any whiff of a dictatorship. More than that, respecting their opinions will make them more willing to sit one out or play with a struggling teammate, Hastings says.

9. Forecast Bad Weather

Guys don’t mind unpopular decisions as much as being surprised by them. Realize when you’re making one, and let the affected player know your rationale before it’s public, Slovin says. Taking that initiative is another one of your thankless duties. Using terms like “you’re my best solution” and “it would really help and be remembered” never hurt.

10. Accept the Inevitable

They may look like responsible, job-holding adults, but they can have the communication skills of a first-grader. Some guys will never get back to you, and, for others, you’ll need to find whatever works—attention-grabbing subject lines, follow-up e-mails, phone calls, or text messages—to get a simple response. “You will be ignored. Don’t take it personally,” Hastings says.

About The Author

Steve Calechman – Steve Calechman is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com. He has published articles for Men's Health, Natural Health, The Robb Report and Women's Health magazine.

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Tags: Leisure Time, Tennis, Basketball, Football