Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to be a crappy captain.

Some people are natural leaders, even in derby where most leagues are filled with alpha personalities.  If your league has natural leaders, then you have a great asset which should be nourished, but what about the rest of us who would like to accept the mantel and try our hands at one of the most difficult jobs in the league?  I've been a captain at least once a year during my derby career, and I can tell you that while I'm not always the most amazingest bestest captain ever, each experience has taught me something of how to be a good or a horrible captain.  Below is a list of ways you can be the worst captain ever.  Hopefully, none of you will find yourself doing these things, but we are all human and each time you captain, you will learn something that will make you a better leader next time.

How to be a crappy captain in seven easy steps

1.  Get super butt hurt that not everyone voted for you.  Some leagues have a transparent voting process where the final results are posted; usually this includes the number of votes for and against and the abstentions.  I applaud every league that does this, because then there are fewer questions, but I've still heard people get their feelings hurt because they may have won by a narrow margin, which just blows my mind.  People vote the way they do for all sorts of reasons; some make sense and some are more random.  If you're going to start your term as captain being upset because "not everyone has faith in you" then you should probably step down and let someone else do it.  I often wonder if every president that has ever served the United States worried about the people who didn't vote for him.

2.  Be unapproachable.  Sometimes captains are afraid that if they take excessive feedback from their team they will seem weak and indecisive.  Just because you have been elected captain doesn't mean that you are infallible and all of your decisions are perfect.  Be firm in your decisions, but listen to your teammates; there is a lot of derby knowledge on your team, use it!

3.  Don't communicate feedback with your team.  Players on your team have every right to ask you for feedback because you are the captain.  In fact, a lot of players will crave it from you, because they want to please you and be noticed by you!  If someone asks why they aren't in that many line ups, or why they aren't jamming, or whatever the question is, don't get offended!  I understand that dealing with rosters and line ups can be an emotional mind field for everyone involved, but as captain, you need to give them some feedback.  Make it specific.  Please don't give the same generic feedback to every player.  Form letters don't help anyone's game get better.

4.  Be unprepared for practice and the game.  Sometimes captains have to plan practices, or circumstances change and captains have to jump to an alternative plan.  If you aren't prepared for practices, people will lose faith in your leadership abilities.  If you have no idea what the timeline is for the upcoming travel game, then people feel like you aren't organized.  Being prepared also means you need to know the rules; derby has a lot of detailed rules that you should be more than passing familiar with.  Being a prepared captain means you're also prepared to discuss and train your teammates on the rules.

5.  Try to do all of the jobs ever.  Some of us in derby are control freaks.  Who me?  Hell yes I am!  It's a horrible habit to get into, and even more difficult to work successfully in when you're in the heat of a game.  Trust your co captain, your bench coaches, and your trainers.  Let each person do his job.  When I'm in a game, I turn over the line ups to my bench coaches so I can think about strategy and talking to the refs when needed.  I trust my bench coaches to do their jobs so I can concentrate on mine.

6.  Be a rotten example.  Are you someone who loses her temper easily?  Well, as captain, you really don't have that luxury because you have to be an example for your team.  If I feel like my captain is agitated, I get nervous as a player.  Captains set the tone emotionally for practices, games and any other derby events, so think twice before you run.  If you tend to let your emotions rule you, learn to practice sounding calm and collected, even though you're seething.  Sometimes you can fake it until you make it!

7.  Never admit that you made a mistake.  Oh captain my captain!  Hey, just because you're in charge, doesn't mean you aren't going to make a mistake or two.  It happens.  Pick up the shattered pieces of your ego and own up to it.  People will admire you more if you own your mistakes and learn from them.  Nobody wants to hear the endless list of justifications that cover your oopsie.

Finally, if you find yourself constantly captaining, I think it's a good idea to take a break once in a while.  It's healthier for you and your league to step down and let someone else take a crack at it.  People tend to get severely burned out after captaining long term, which can attribute to their derby burn out.  Also, if the same people are constantly in charge, the chances of your league growing through new ideas is slim.  I think it's best to let your league develop leaders of all kinds, and captaining is a good way to do that.

C is for captain...that's good enough for me,

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