no captains

Most dance teams appoint a few upperclassman dancers to function as captains on their team. They are there to help with choreography, run sidelines at games, and generally set the standard of commitment and hard work for the team. However, many coaches fall into a trap of appointing a few seniors as captains without much thought, because it’s what they’ve always done. Or coaches believe you’re “supposed” to have captains.

No captains

What if you didn’t have captains?

While there are some huge advantages to having captains, and in general I advocate for captains, they aren’t essential! In fact, appointing a captain just because she is a senior or just because he is a technically strong dancer could hurt your team. Some teams function much better without captains, and some teams even change it up year to year depending on the dynamics of that specific team.

Here are 3 Reasons why you may want NO CAPTAINS this year:

Reason 1:

If you believe you are entering a season where there isn’t strong leadership potential in your returning dancers.

Now many years you will have dancers where you may not think they have the skills it takes to be a good leader. But if you train them well you could help them become the leaders of your dreams.  I would argue this is actually the case MOST seasons. Your upcoming leaders will need a bit of training and that’s ok. Don’t be afraid of the work and skip having captains just because they need some guidance. Usually the benefits of well-trained captains far outweigh the time it takes to teach them.

The reason to actually skip captains for a year is if your returning dancers really show NO potential for leadership. Maybe they struggle with commitment, or no one is particularly adept at choreography, or motivating teammates. If there is truly no one returning to your team who shows any propensity for being a captain, don’t appoint a captain just because you’re “supposed” to have captains or because you always have in the past.

Reason #2:

If you have too many strong-willed seniors on your team, where a division of power would be a disaster, trust your gut and don’t pick and choose leadership.

One year I had 6 excellent candidates for captain, but we have always had 3. So I only had three captains. Looking back, one of the girls who wasn’t captain would have been an excellent leader and I think the team lost out on what she would have added for us that season. Now because she’s a good leader, she was a wonderful role model without the title, but she would have been stronger with more formal influence.

That said, the three who were selected were also great, and there was no reason to NOT have any of them captain. Instead, I think it would have been smarter to let go of tradition and have a leadership committee that year. More on that later…

Reason #3

You have a brand-new team.

Whether you are creating a new team at your school, or maybe creating a new JV team in your program, that is a great time to NOT have captains, and divide and conquer instead. I coached for 6 years without an assistant or JV coach until I was finally allowed to establish a JV team and hire another coach. In the first few years of that team, there was a time when nearly everyone was new and it didn’t make sense to have a captain. Instead, my JV coach decided to have a leadership committee, which in this case, was actually the entire JV squad.

What to do instead:

If any of the above reasons apply to you this season, consider a leadership committee.  Instead of traditional captains, you can take all of your seniors, or upperclassman, or whomever you want to include based on your specific team dynamic and have them work together as a committee.

Divide and Conquer…

Just as you would with any group of captains, start by outlining roles and duties you want your leadership committee to be responsible for. Then you can take that list of roles you determined to be important and divide them amongst the committee, or even the whole team.  

I have seen this work very well if you have a lack of leadership potential or maybe even too many cooks in the kitchen where there’s a lot of great leaders ready to step up. I’ve seen it work especially well for college teams with a lot of leadership talent. 

A leadership committee allows more people to be involved, reduces burnout by spreading out the workload, and can reduce drama and fighting in a strong-willed class.  

For College Coaches:

One special approach you can use as a college coach is to assign leadership jobs based on their majors in school. For example, if you have a few dancers who are primary education majors, maybe they are in charge of the Lil’ Poms clinic during basketball season. (A common fundraiser where young dancers in the community between 5 and 12 years old come to a clinic and perform at a game.) If you have marketing or communication majors, they can be in charge of social media or promotional items. Health science majors can be in charge of conditioning drills, or proper warm-up at practice. The stronger technical dancers can be in charge of teaching choreography or planning half time and pep-rally routines. 

Strengths-Based Leadership

A similar idea that works for high school or college is to create committees based on individual strengths. A practice committee could lead warm-up and conditioning, where a game day committee would lead the team on the field, call sidelines, etc. An organization committee would decide what spirit wear is appropriate for each event, communicate appearance details to the team and send out packing lists for big events and travel. The social committee can organize team-bonding events, charitable work, and manage social media accounts. 

Focus on your team’s needs

Ultimately, the sky is the limit for how you organize your captains. The point is that you divide all of the roles and responsibilities based on individual strengths. Then you get the best of each of your dancers and everyone contributes! 

What matters most, is that you do what you believe works best for your team. I encourage you to consider all of your options, from traditional captains to a leadership committee and pick and choose what you think will benefit you and your team. (To read more on choosing effective captains click here and here). 

The decision is yours and as long as you have thought about what you want your leadership team to contribute and how you will select the right people for the job, you’ll be off to a great start this season!

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