What Makes A Good Team Captain?

11 Sep 2014 13:02

This article gives a basic introduction to what qualities an individual needs to perform his or her duties as a national team captain and what is expected of the person who takes on this role.

Before even considering taking on the role of national team captain, you must first ask yourself these questions:

– “Do I have the time to dedicate to this role?” 

This question is often overlooked but good captaincy starts here. You will be expected to dedicate a lot of your time to managing your team regarding training, event enrolment, recruitment of fighters, weapons, armour, transport to events and a lot of time to the study of Historical Medieval Battles which will benefit your team’s performance at tournaments. Be honest with yourself; if you do not believe you can commit to this, don’t apply for the role.

Consider your life outside the sport – are there periods of the year in which you are extremely busy at work? If you have children, when do you need to spend more time with them (e.g. holidays)? These are factors which will not be held against you, but your team members need to know about these times of year beforehand – there is nothing worse than using the excuse “Sorry, I didn’t have time” after failing to carry out your duties. Manage your time effectively by planning ahead.

– “Am I a good communicator?”

Perhaps the most important quality a captain must have is his or her ability to communicate. Your team will start to fragment the moment communication breaks down and your lack of team management will start to leak. Pulling it back from this point will be extremely difficult and will probably be held against you as a captain.

Knowledge must be made available to the people who need it when and where they need it. One challenge as a captain is to encourage communication between team members and facilitate the exchange of knowledge.

Good communicators must have good time management to ensure team members are updated with the latest developments and event arrangements, but they should always consider their interpersonal communications. A good captain:
a) Listens attentively
b) Responds actively
c) Encourages feedback

No matter if you’re the captain of a small team or a large team, you must always encourage your team members to contribute and have a voice. If you are unapproachable or even unreachable, you will leave your team wondering if someone else is the captain, leading to team fragmentation.

– “Am I decisive enough?”  

Let’s face it; a captain who makes half-hearted decisions or struggles to convey what has been decided clearly shouldn’t be a captain. Saying things like “I don’t know. What do you think?” about every issue which comes up is not going to earn you much respect. This is where your experience has to be applied. A team needs a confident – but not arrogant – leader who can make quick decisions if and when necessary. Are you a person who can make quick but wise decisions? Ask yourself about some of your more recent decisions which have involved a team or a group of people. What were your successes and failures? How did other people react to your decisions? Considering these will help you get to know yourself better as a potential captain.

Get used to following a system when making important decisions:
Value – which decision is likely to have the most beneficial impact on your team?
Suitability – is the decision the most suitable one for your team as a whole?
Acceptability – your decisions may not be the first choice for everyone on your team, but will they be accepted?
Feasibility – will your decisions be practical and feasible in their implementation, considering possible time, logistical or even financial constraints?

– “Can I deal with problems within my team?”  
Unfortunately, problems can and do occur even in the most seasoned teams. As a team captain, there can be no running away from them or hoping they’ll sort themselves out.

Problem-solving is the result of astute decision-making, but managing conflict requires the wisdom and temperament of an experienced individual.

Never get angry, take sides or give up. If an issue is reported to you, repeat it back to the person or people who have reported it. This shows you have fully understood the situation – the first step towards dealing with a problem and a sign of trust that you are going to give it your undivided attention. Simply shrugging your shoulders and not addressing the issue shows a lack of interest in your team.

Use the discipline of problem-solving techniques to tackle difficulties as they arise, but encourage team members to raise concerns. By raising concerns at an early stage, the captain, with the support of his team, is able to ensure that these concerns do not escalate into unmanageable problems which the entire team will suffer from.

Those are some very basic questions a potential captain must ask him or herself before even considering the role of team captain. The reality is that it’s a huge responsibility – at times it will take all of your energy so it is certainly not a position for part-timers. That said, it is not a role without reward, so here are a few pointers of what is expected of you in the preparation stages of events like HMBIA’s Battle of the Nations and many others, and a few tips on how to get more out of your role as a successful team captain.

– Delegate

This is the first and most important rule, and one which will cover any potential time difficulties or matters for which an external consultant (e.g. authenticity expert) is needed.

A good team captain dedicates time to the planning of events, but he or she is only human! We are all subject to unforeseen circumstances, stressful periods at work and situations which decrease the time we have available for running a team, but this doesn’t need to hinder the smoothness with which your team operates. So if you find yourself in a difficult situation:
– Identify what needs to be done
– Entrust someone to take care of identified tasks
– Set a deadlineYou may find yourself in a situation which restricts even the most basic communication. In event planning – let’s take Battle of the Nations for example – it is important that you have someone on your team who can be kept in copy of communication that you may not be able to deal with immediately. HMBIA, or any respectable event organiser, will keep a record of whom else to contact in your absence. This person should be someone you know for a fact has the time to carry out tasks in your absence – don’t just choose your best friend.

Trust your team members with tasks. They will appreciate the responsibility and feel even more part of a team. Keep monitoring them and get back to them with feedback, depending on the complexity of the task to delegate.

– CommunicateAs discussed before, good communication is vital, and this starts at the top. As a captain, you are the point of reference for event organisers and it is your responsibility to ensure all communication – regulations, camp restrictions, enrolment deadlines, etc. – is received by all members of your team as quickly as possible. There can be no “Ok, I’ll do that tomorrow” attitudes – if there’s information to share, it must be done promptly. Put it this way; a train will stand motionless at the station until it’s told to leave. Don’t make excuses for slack communication when it’s too late. Delegating plays a big part in this; if you know you’re not going to be able to send communication to your team, make sure there’s someone who is.

– Know your tournament

Before a tournament, the captain should almost be able to sing the regulations. This will require some personal time to study them, but any questions the team have should be dealt with by you. Of course, most big tournaments like Battle of the Nations have the regulations posted online, but that won’t help your team much if you’re in the gym training in full armour!

– Know your teamThe development of your team is in your hands so it is right that you know who they are and what they do. Take an interest in them and it’ll better help you delegate the right task to the right fighter should the need arise. Listen to them and give them feedback whenever necessary. Spend some time with them after training if you can and get to
know them, perhaps doing something unrelated to Historical Medieval Battles – get something to eat, play cards with them, or have a game of chess together; whatever it is you find a common interest in. The more you know about your team outside of training and tournaments, the more mutual trust and respect will be gained.

– Inspire

For many people, representing their nation at an international sporting event is the highest honour possible. Reminding your team of their achievement in getting that far will do them the world of good and maintain a national bond that you all have. Part of keeping your team together is inspiring them, so make sure everyone knows the national anthem(!), give your team words of encouragement, vocally support them in their fights and bring everyone together to support each other.

“There are two golden rules for an orchestra: start together and end together” – Thomas Beecham

– DisciplineCommand respect, inspire confidence and demand discipline. These are three incredibly important principles for a team captain, but only a wise individual truly understands them. There is no space in tournaments of Historical Medieval Battles for arrogance – this shows through lack of discipline. But lead by example, not with an iron fist. For example, if in training you notice your teammates using bad language or offensive comments – a breach of the Battle of the Nations code of conduct – you should intervene immediately, but practice what you preach and demonstrate your self-discipline in the same way.

To end this point and this article, you must always remember that in any tournament, the behaviour and attitude of each team member reflects the conduct of the national team captain.

Gavin Stewart,
HMBIA Development Committee

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