How to Create a Captain's Club at Your School
Looking to develop more responsible and respected leaders at your school?
A Captain's Club (or Council) is an innovative new trend that is catching on at several high schools and colleges across the nation and paying big dividends.
This article shares a variety of ideas that you can use to initiate a Captain's Club at your high school or college. Athletic directors Carl Latora from Portage Northern High School in Portage, MI and Chris Curtiss from Corunna High School in Corunna, MI have successfully implemented Captain's Clubs and are gracious enough to share their experiences and insights with those at the high school level.
And I'll reiterate some of the ideas and concepts we've implemented with our Leadership Academies at North Carolina, Michigan, Pitt, Illinois, Arkansas, Yale, Baylor, Lehigh, Lafayette, Holy Cross, Colgate, and George Washington for those at the college level.
Why a Captain's Club?
Organizing a Captain's Club brings several potential benefits to your school including:
1. Creates strong leaders.
Chris Curtiss says, "We have seen leaders emerge in our juniors who have been a part of the program the last two years - they will be some of the strongest leaders we"ve had in a while."
2. Targets the people who have the biggest impact on your program's success.
Your captains have such a big influence on their teammates - athletically, academically, and socially. They are the key catalysts and chief dominoes of your group. If you can get them moving enthusiastically in the right direction, virtually all others will follow. Targeting your student leaders with the proper training and support provides you with the biggest benefit for the limited amount of time you have available.
3. Provides leaders with practical skills/insights rather than assuming they know what to do.
One of the primary reasons Chris Curtiss created their Captains Club was in his words, "We just didn't feel we were doing a very good job of teaching our athletes to be good leaders through their four years in high school."
Even investing as little as 15-20 minutes of leadership training for your captains once a month is much more than 95% of high schools and colleges presently provide their student-athlete leaders. It's amazing to think how much coaches and athletic directors depend on their leaders to set the standards, hold teammates accountable, be their voice when they are not there, etc., yet the vast majority provide their leaders with zero, or at best, cursory training to do so effectively.
4. Creates and strengthens a partnership between captains, coaches, and athletic administrators.
With the inherent generation gap between teenagers and their coaches/athletic administrators, a Captain's Club effectively bridges the age difference and creates a strong leadership team. It allows the adults to tap into and value the insights of their student-athlete leaders. At the same time, a Captain's Club allows the student-athlete leaders to be mentored by respected adults who care about their student-athletes' development on and off the court/field.
According to Carl Latora, "As an athletic administrator, I want to remain in touch with our student-athletes and continue to provide them with an athletic program that would provide character development and leadership training."
5. Provides support and comraderie for all captains.
Being a leader is a difficult and challenging job, especially for high school and college students who still highly value what their peers think. Many of them would rather be popular than to make the difficult decisions that need to be made for the success and reputation of your program. Because there is strength in numbers, a Capain's Club provides your leaders with the support and encouragement they need to make the difficult decsions and the courage to speak up and confront their less disciplined teammates.
The leaders from the Carolina Leadership Academy repeatedly mention that they really value the chance to discuss the challenges they face with leaders from other teams who understand their situations and can offer advice and support. The other captains provide them with a sense of perspective and alternative views and ways to handle common challenges.
Chris Curtiss says, "Our kids appreciate the ability to talk openly about difficult subjects and actually use some of the practical strategies discussed with their teams and teammates."
How to Set Up and Organize Your Captain's Club
How many members?
Corunna has roughly 50 in their Captain's Club. Freshmen through seniors are involved in the program and Corunna plans to reorganize their club to incorporate the three-tier system used with the Carolina Leadership Academy: 1. Freshmen (Carolina CREED), Emerging sophomore/junior leaders (Rising Stars), Established junior/senior captains/leaders (Veteran Leaders).
The first year, meetings were held every Friday morning for about 45 minutes. Now each of the three groups meets once a month. Corunna uses home-room time as a chance for the groups to meet.
Portage Northern HS has 25 members on their Council. Each coach selects a member of their team to be a part of the council and most of the time they are juniors or seniors. Last year the group met twice a month for an hour. At the request of the student-athletes, the group plans to meet once a week before school starts.
Both school's leadership groups are spearheaded by the athletic directors and coaches. Says Latora, "Our coaches have been very responsive to our projects and I think they support our Council very much."
Carolina targets all freshmen for the CREED program. And roughly 90 student-athletes are in each of the Rising Stars and Veteran Leaders programs. Rising Stars meet for 75 minutes 10 times throughout the school year and Veteran Leaders meet every other week during the season for 60 minutes.
What kinds of training topics do you cover?
1. Dealing with athletes who violate rules, 2. Dealing with 9th and 10th graders on the varsity, 3. What to do as a JV player when your best player is taken to varsity, 4. How to handle things when they or their teammates make a mistake, 5. Motivating teammates who aren't motivated, 6. Dealing with tough coaches.
Portage Northern HS:
1. Qualities of a Leader, 2. Attitude, 3. Responsibility, 4. Self-image, 5. Character, 6. Goal setting, 7. Mental Training, 8. Servant Leadership, 9. Problem Solving and Decision Making, 10. Becoming a Change Agent.
Both schools use Team Captain's Leadership Manuals in their programs.
College Leadership Academies:
Programming goes in-depth to teach student-athletes how to become effective Leaders by Example and Vocal Leaders. The Team Captain's Leadership Manual is the primary resource we use.
Suggestions for Creating a Captain's Club at Your School
1. Talk with your AD and fellow coaches and get them excited about the key benefits of creating a Captain's Club.
2. Determine a core group of people (coaches, administrators, students) who will spearhead and organize the program.
3. Determine which and how many student-athlete leaders you would like to be involved in the Captain's Club and selection methods/criteria.
4. Decide on the key topics you would like to cover with your leaders.
5. Determine a workable meeting time and schedule.
6. Solicit program feedback from captains and coaches as the program evolves.
7. Acknowledge and appreciate the work of the Captain's Club whenever possible via announcements, awards, etc.
Additional ideas: Solicit sponsorship of the club from booster groups, local service organizations, and/or area businesses. The funding could provide you with distinctive t-shirts, snacks for meetings, money to send representatives to leadership workshops, leadership training resources, bringing in speakers, etc. Most businesses and service clubs love the opportunity to contribute to the development of the next generation of leaders in their communities.
Not only will creating a Captain's Club help your program be more successful on and off the court/field - but you also play a huge role in providing your young leaders with important leadership skills that will make a difference for them and your communities for generations to come.