Many coaches encourage voting for captains as all or part of the selection process, and that’s a good thing. When you allow the team to participate in the process of selecting the captains there are some clear benefits. Especially over a coach who appoints the captain without discussion. However, there are some important things to keep in mind if you use a team vote as part of the process.
To vote or not to vote?
Some coaches prefer to just choose the captain, appoint that person(s) and continue on without having the team vote. There are many reasons for this decision, including the desire to get away from a popularity contest and the feeling that you know what’s best for your team so why bother (which is probably true).
Based on research and experience, I urge you to vote for captain, but only as a piece of the captain application process.
Here are three big reasons to have your team vote for captain:
- Voting increases team buy-in and commitment. When you include the team in the selection process you increase long-term commitment and decrease the chance of drama later on.
- Including a team vote shows a democratic coaching style. If you usually ask for opinions of your dancers and encourage them to have a voice, you are coaching from a philosophy of inclusion and empowerment. This democratic coaching style has been researched for decades and is repeatedly shown to increase positive team culture. Having the team vote on such a big decision gives them the sense that you care about their opinion and value what the have to say. You may not always do what they ask of you or agree with what they say, but the fact that they have a voice goes a long way.
- If the team gets to vote and the outcome isn’t what they hoped for, they are more likely to respect the outcome. When a captain is appointed without discussion by the coach, those who wanted to be captain but didn’t get it (or those who don’t like the chosen leader) are more likely to be rude and abrasive towards your new leader. Instead, if everyone has a voice and the outcome doesn’t turn out the way they wanted, dancers are more likely to remain dedicated to the team because they were a part of the process.
Don’t stop with the vote!
Voting should be more than a name on a piece of paper after practice one day.
When you ask team members to cast their vote, have them write down more than just the name of the person (or top 3) they want to be a leader on the team. Ask them to also write a short paragraph about why they think that person would be a good leader. Additionally, you can include a part of your captain tryouts where the applicants give a short speech to their teammates about why they want to be captain. It can be very enlightening to see who puts time into thinking about the position and what they can bring to the team and who just wants the title. And you won’t be the only one who notices the dedication.
Voting is only the 1st step
Voting shouldn’t be the only thing that determines leadership roles. While voting is an important part of the process, it should not be the single determining factor. It’s important for the dancers to be able to express their opinions. However, based on the characteristics and duties you decide on (more on that here), there should be many aspects to a captain application.
You can still allow for the team vote. But make sure there are 3 or 4 other aspects to the application process. That way, popularity can’t ruin the process, your team gets to have an opinion, but the right people end up with the job.
Here is the full proof way to ensure you end up with the best captains for your team…
The first part of a captain application should include the parameters of who can apply, and clearly outline the expected roles and responsibilities. Once you have determined your top 4 or 5 most important leadership qualities, design an application that highlights those skills.
For each dance skill or leadership quality that you decide is important, include something in the application that addresses it. If it’s important to you that they are role models in the school and ambassadors for your program, include teacher recommendations or other character references. If your captains will be teaching a lot during the season, include a demonstration of how they would teach 4 8 counts of choreography. Remember, many talented dancers actually struggle to teach. While dancers who may not be as technically sound can be excellent teachers. They understand how to count, how to explain, and intuitively teach at the best pace for the rest of the team to learn.
Decide what you value most…
Once you’ve determined your application sections, decide on point values for each section. You can keep it simple and have every section worth 20% or 25% of the total if there are 4 or 5 sections. Or you can give different aspects of the application different weights. Maybe the team vote should be worth more, or the teaching ability is really essential, so it is worth more. You decide what is best for your program.
Take the hypothetical team, the Dancerettes. On this team, Coach decided there are four things that are considered most important to the evaluation process: Team Vote, Choreography and Teaching, Technical Ability, and Ambassador for the program. So in this team’s application, each prospective captain must be evaluated in each of the four areas.
- Part 1: a team vote.
- Part 2: the captain must teach 4 8 counts to the other candidates. The coaching staff completes an evaluation form scoring their teaching ability out of 100 points.
- Part 3: to demonstrate technical skill, the captain must perform a solo in
a styleof their choosing. The solo is performed in front of the tryout judges, scored on a separate sheet also out of 100 points.
- Part 4: the captain must ask for 3 teacher or administrator recommendations. These recommendations cover important leadership skills like work ethic, school attendance, and interpersonal skills.
This hypothetical Dancerettes’ captain application is out of 400 points, with each section worth the same value, 100 points. The three score sheets added together, plus the team vote. (Note on team vote: To make this work with point values, the person with the most votes get 100 points, the second most votes get 90 points, the third most votes gets 80 points and so on). Now it’s a simple addition of points to reach a decision of your leadership team! Even better, the people who come out on top will be the best combination of your most important skills.
Choose what’s best for your team…
You can use this model to come up with the perfect captain application that fits your team and your needs. Go back to the top 4 or 5 qualities you want in a captain and choose how those skills will be evaluated. Decide if each skill should be of equal weight and assign point values. Then you put it all together and you have the ideal system set up for your team! Plus you have a much better chance of choosing the top candidates for your program covering a balance of all of the skills you’d hoped to see. (To read more about how this works, check out the free e-book: Dance Team Captains: From Ineffective Beginners to Commanding Leaders).
Ending up with poor leaders on your team can be SCARY!
Don’t let that happen to you. Ensure you are allowing your team to vote but take charge of the application process so the best leaders for YOUR team rise to the top.
After all, you may disagree with the team’s vote. But if you have set up the rest of the application to bring out the qualities that are important to you, the system will work for you and you’ll end up with your ideal leadership team.