Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tips for being a captain / Dealing with authority - Part 1 (of many)

Lets face it, a sizable majority of high school ultimate teams are run by the players. Usually there is a captain or core group of leaders who sacrifice their time to order jerseys, come up with strategy, plan practices, schedule games, get the team to tournaments and come up with a plan for the long term.

So in addition to all of those responsibilities there is the omnipresent judgment call of how to deal with your fellow players on a personal and team level. Most times you are friends or at least have relationships with these people outside of a practice or game setting so it is often a difficult task to motivate them in a way that wont compromise those friendships.

Here are a few suggestions for how to cope with the authority that I've come up with through experience...

1. talk it out - very rarely are there things among teammates - discrepancies about decisions or otherwise - that cannot be solved through talking. if a problem is arising primarily from one or two people i suggest meeting with them in a time outside of practice, in a situation where you are less of the authority figure. just sit in an area where you wont be interrupted and instead of chewing them out or assuming what the problem might be, open it up for discussion and allow them to say whatever is on their mind. in the same vein, if it may be a team-wide problem have a team meeting, in a classroom after school, cancel practice for the day or postpone it whatever is necessary (a team divided will not stand) and open the floor for comments or criticism.

2. welcome criticism - ... in a way. there are two types of criticism, as you might expect - good and bad. first the bad - you are setting up a drill, explaining something in terms of strategy and have relative "quiet" and there is a voice from the back saying "this drill sucks" or "why dont we do ___ instead" - this is bad criticism. i suggest responding to this in a way that discourages it from happening in the future, perhaps with, "___, just let me finish explaining this drill and you can tell me what you are talking about in a second" or perhaps, "we are doing this now, we will be doing that soon" or something similar but then talk to the person one on one and explain how to give good criticism. good criticism is something that is beneficial to the team. it comes more from a general interest to see things work well, as opposed to just wanting to prove the person in the authority position that you are right. good criticism more often than not should come in a smaller setting - one on one, or small group. it should also be phrased in a non-confrontational way. example - "hey i think drill x would might help us work on that problem we had in the last game" as opposed to "that drill is shit". that drill might be shit, but the point is if you want someone to listen to you, you have to come across reasonable.

3. wait 10 minutes rule - it is very very easy to get frustrated when being a captain, you get very little in the way of thanks and or gratitude and you do the lion's share of the work. so quite often you might find yourself wanting to scream at people, write nasty emails to your team telling them how much they should try harder and how much everyone isnt working now, or call people out, or all of those things combined. however, when you step back and look at it, those actions will yield very little of the things you would like to accomplish - success as a team or other. more than likely a calm explanation of where you are coming from explaining why you are frustrated would be more beneficial, however very few people are receptive of that after having been chewed out in public. instead use this rule - wait ten minutes. its incredibly easy, but hard to do. example situation - at practice, give the drill for someone else to run for a second (this is a good trick to defray criticism that you are a being too hard on people, it doesnt work if a teammate is running the drill), and then run down to the end of the field and set up cones, or just jog around for a second. or just get a drink. just put some time between you and the frustrating situation. if you let something grind on you at night and are about to send out a nasty email, write it out, it might help, but then walk away for 10 minutes. watch some tv, go physically away from the computer. and then come back to it, read it again, revise and then send.
The above are just a few suggestions, and i cant say that i always followed them myself either of the times when i was a captain, but if someone had given me the above advice perhaps it would have helped?

I will try to compile more coherently in the future make it a reoccurring feature. I am very interested to hear what your experiences are and any advice you have for someone who might become a captain - comment away!


Anonymous said...

one thing i have experienced is when an adult coach shows a lack of respect toward a player coach or captain.just because they are younger than you doesn't mean they know less or are more is usually the opposite.don't get me wrong,most adult coaches are not this way but it only takes a couple to ruin the spirit of the game.treat them team you play as equals,not as children.

Jake said...

For the most part, i agree with "anonymous". The kids are generally mature and can be treated as equals, but the reason they have a coach is to make sure the kids do not act like children. Just last night i needed to stop practice to admonish the team for letting someone make a joke about "playing like a girl" and "getting handblocked by a girl". Adults see this situation as nothing less than sexism. Kids (as a whole) constantly need to be reminded that the world is bigger than them, that sexism, racism, homophobia and the like is not cool, shouldn't have an accepted place in our society, and is not to be encouraged or laughed at.

This is just one reason we can't treat the kids as equals. simply because they ARE kids. Albeit very responsible, usually respectable kids, but kids nonetheless.


Anonymous said...

Those last few sentences sound like stereotyping to me... which is kind of ironic, as the author points to "sexism, racism, homophobia and the like" as what makes high school kids immature, when stereotyping itself is generally the cause of these "not cool" mentalities.

Many adults who play ultimate, or maybe even some coaches, crack these kind of jokes, too (ever been to Potlatch?). I don't think the best example of why coaches are important to a high-school team is that they teach their kids better life skills.

Coaches engender in their players a certain form of motivation that only authoritative figures wield. It's hard for high school teams to have legitimacy when they're lacking this motivation, and they need extra internal motivation to be competetive. This can happen, look at South Eugene's open and girls teams who got 5t and 3t or something at Westerns last year with no coach and are totally nice, respectful players.

Julian said...

One of the most frustrating things about being a young person is the fact that adults mistrust you. I'm about to turn 27 (yikes!), but I remember well how mad it made me when an authority figure made me feel like I couldn't make a good choice.

If you want to motivate young people, chastise them less and empower them more. If coaches and other adults create conditions that foster good choices, young people will probably make good choices.