In What Qualities make a Good Captain top coaches spoke of what they looked for in a player when selecting this role but once chosen how does a player learn how to develop into a good captain?
Richie McCaw is the most capped captain in the game so who better to learn from than someone who has delivered consistently on the biggest stage. In 2013 McCaw did a series of videos for addidasTV and they offer a very personal perspective on the All Black’s experience of growing into the role. He offers a real insight into what player will face in the role and ultimately provides a blueprint to how to be a good captain.
10 Step Guide to How to Be A Good Captain
1 Inspire Others
Leading by example whether they are on the pitch, in training or as a person a captain has to set the standards for the team. It’s not about speeches before a game it’s about actions on and off the field.
“Great players lead by their actions, a great leader has the ability to inspire those around them.”
2 Do Your Job
Rugby is about 15 players understanding and performing their roles first and foremost. Your focus should be on your position-specific role for the team. You can be a great captain but if you let your positional duties slip then the team will struggle to function.
“I think when I became captain the first thing was that you’ve got to be the best player you can be, you’ve got to earn your spot or be an automatic selection. If you get that right every week that is probably 80% of your job as a captain, the other 20% is being able to help others and ensure the team is going well.
I think when I first started I was more worried about being a captain than being a player and it took me a while to get the balance right. I write down every week ‘get my job right,’ if I get that right it takes care of a lot of job I have as captain.”
3 Back Yourself
Trust that you have been given the role because you have the qualities to do it. If you question your ability then others might too and building confidence in your team mates is an important aspect of what a good captain does.
“Leadership can be lonely at times. It’s so hard to get that respect and so easy to lose it when you get it wrong. Perhaps early on when I wasn’t so comfortable in the role there were guys in the team who had been round longer than I had who had been captain themselves and I always wondered how they saw it. They always backed you but with my own insecurities I was never quite sure.”
4 Find the Right Answers
Understand that the scope of your role as a captain is to find solutions. The best teams play to their strengths and the best captains use their team’s strengths to help find the right answers.
“As time has gone on I’ve become a lot more comfortable because now I rely on a bunch of senior boys. I’m quite prepared to say ‘hey look what do you reckon?’ and if they’ve got the answer you go with it. Don’t feel precious about not knowing the answer yourself. At the end of the day these are guys that have played as long as I have, have captained other teams and they have just as much knowledge as I have. I guess I see my role as making sure that as a group we get the right answer and it doesn’t need to be mine as we get the right answer.”
5 Know Your Team
You may have been given the task to lead the team but you are still part of the team so don’t lose that connection, understand your fellow players and work together.
“You are in it together so when you are out on the field, when the heat is on, you can look at your mate and without saying anything you’ve got that look of you’ve got each other’s back. That’s pretty powerful and makes it a whole lot easier to do what you do.”
6 Give Yourself Time
You didn’t understand your position in the team on day one, and assuming the role of captain is the same. It takes time to gain the experience and understand the expectations of your team mates and coaches so that you can perform in the role.
“When I first became captain I thought I was ready but when I look back now I didn’t really have an understanding of how to go about things. Perhaps that was because I wasn’t secure in myself about being in charge. I think you grow into that.”
7 Learn From Your Experiences
In rugby no one individual wins a game and no one individual loses a game. Your attitude plays an important part in setting the tone for how the team reacts so as captain you need to help the team learn the lessons from the hard times.
“The lesson of 2007 [when New Zealand lost in the RWC quarterfinals] could have gone one of two ways. Either you feel sorry for yourself and say I’m not really the right person. Or you go right it’s a tough old lesson and I’m going to learn what I can from it, come back and be better. It took a wee while to make that decision.”
8 Face Your Demons
Doubts can creep in when results don’t go your way which can lead you to question your ability as a captain and or that of your team but don’t let that become your focus. Accept the lessons learned and move on.
“In 2009 we lost three in a row to the Springboks and it was a pretty unenjoyable year to be honest and there was a moment after we lost the third Test in Hamilton where we were coping it from all areas and in myself I actually questioned ‘I don’t know if we are actually good enough?’ Whereas every other time I knew we could go out and win I was starting to go ‘What am I doing this for? The enjoyment is not what it should be.’ That Sunday afterwards I got to the point where you either sulk a bit or you get on and stand up.”
9 Embrace the Challenges
Rugby is about conquering physical, technical and mental challenges. Adding captain to your playing CV may be one of the greatest challenges you take on but it’s one that comes with a real sense of satisfaction so stand up when you get the call and you’ll be rewarded.
“What sort of dude do you want to be remembered as – the guy who gave up when it got tough? When I look back it was a hell of a good lesson, tough at the time, but when you come through that and turn it around it becomes pretty satisfying.”
10 Use Your Advantages
The knowledge you gain as a captain will help you develop as a player and grow your understanding of the sport. Use this to your advantage in all aspects of the game.
“I’ve been around 10-11 years and the experiences I’ve been through and the knowledge I’ve picked up in different situations is a big advantage.”