8 Qualities of a Great Soccer Captain (Includes Responsibilities)

The role of captain on any soccer team is highly sought after.

It’s a position of honor.

But how does a coach choose the right player for this coveted leadership role?

What if there are no obvious captain choices who are ready to lead on your soccer team?  

We’ve compiled a list of the 8 top qualities to look for in a truly great soccer captain.

And don’t worry, you can find a developing soccer captain that’s right for your team on any roster. Because leaders are made and not born, remember?

Qualities of a Great Soccer Captain

Remember, the role of soccer captain is a leadership role.

While the captain takes direction from the coach, they should also be a positive field presence who communicates well with teammates on and off the field.

A good team captain can be a crucial piece in executing your vision for the team.

A bad one can demoralize a competent team and cause serious problems.

So, here are 8 qualities to look in your next team captain:

#1 - Punctuality

It may sound basic, but teams take cues from their leaders.

Your team captain should be a player who has no problem showing up early, is ready on time, and primed to work.

A captain who is frequently absent or late sends a message to the rest of the team:

“They’ve got better things going on elsewhere.”

Punctuality in a team captain sets an example and expectation.

#2 - Hardworking

There’s a common misconception that the most talented player on your soccer team should automatically take the place of team captain.

But there are many players who are naturally quite talented and don’t feel the need to develop their skills too much.

We’ll say instead that your team captain should definitely be amongst your hardest working players. If they also happen to be a gifted player, all the better.

#3 - Humble

Arrogant, disdainful, and entitled team captains do you and your players NO FAVORS!

The mark of a potentially excellent captain are that they:

DO NOT:

⚽️ Actively campaign for the position

⚽️ Brag about their skills or perceived superiority on the field

⚽️ Broadcast their qualifications for the job of captain

⚽️ Resort to trying to charm or bribe their way to captain

⚽️ Over-celebrate goals or wins on the field

DO:

⚽️ Downplay their own skills, experience, or good qualities

⚽️ Play-up the skills and achievements of their teammates

⚽️ Show interest in the team’s success as a unit, not as an individual

#4 - Self-Confident

A great team captain is also confident.

Self-confidence in a player competing for a leadership role will be clear in different ways:

Do they carry themselves well?

Do they appear prepared for the day?

Can they maintain eye contact in a conversation?

Do they strike the ball timidly or do they strike it with confidence?

Confident players don’t have to get it right every time, but rather they show in their willingness to take risks, to commit, and to be present in the moment.

#5 - Great Communicator

The role of team captain requires communication, so yours should be good at it.

They should be someone who is able to communicate on the field with their teammates.

In some ways, your soccer captain is also your disciple, reinforcing items you have brought up with the team on and off the field.

Your team captain is more likely than anyone to say:

“Okay, let’s run this just like we drilled in practice, remember what coach said. Let’s go!”

#6 - Respectful

Towards you, their teammates, referees, parents, and especially towards their opponents.

Remember, team captains set the tone.  

Everyone benefits from respectful leadership on the field -- especially if your long game is not only to field a superb team of players but to develop a group of exceptional people. 

#7 - Emotionally Intelligent

Soccer is an emotional game.

Emotional intelligence is a multifaceted leadership quality, but the elements you’ll want to look for in a team captain are:

⚽️ Self-regulation
⚽️ Motivation
⚽️ Empathy
⚽️ Social Skills

These will be important skills in helping get your team through emotional wins and losses.

This will show up post-match after a loss in a tough match-up or season-ender. 

All of your players have worked hard. Some of them may “lose it” emotionally if the game result is crushing. They need a leader on the field who has some modicum of self-regulation.

A good team captain can show their sadness, even cry, without being that crazy player who is throwing equipment in a fit of rage.

Team captains with emotional intelligence are also game-savers under pressure.

Who else is going to be able to stabilize a team at half-time and motivate when you’re behind?  

Many teams crumble under pressure after a bad call, after a missed opportunity, or when they are down with just minutes left on the clock…

The stabilizing presence of an emotionally competent team captain can definitely have a positive impact on your soccer team. They can diffuse panic.

Make sure that your selected captain is someone you can envision leading sobbing players off the field and giving them some whispered encouragement that helps in the moment.

#8 - Selfless

Excellent captains on the field are ones who put the team ahead of themselves.

Selfless people in leadership roles are often called servant leaders.

You want one of them.

They place development of the TEAM first and will help you optimize team play. 

soccer captain standing on the sideline communicating with teammates

Roles and Responsibilities of a Captain

The responsibilities assigned to the captain of your team are largely up to you as the coach.

You may have specific responsibilities you want to associate with the soccer captain position.

Be sure to discuss these with prospective captains in advance so they’re aware of the commitment they’re agreeing to if selected.

For example:

If you require an additional time or work commitment from your team captain, make sure they’re willing and able to accept that commitment.

At the most basic level, all players should feel comfortable talking to your chosen team captain.

They may bring questions and concerns to your attention on other players’ behalf.

Further, some more involved captains may take an active role in player development if their own skills are already well-developed.

That’s why you’ll often see a great team captain partnering with weaker players during practices and drills to encourage them and offer tips.

Ceremonial Duty

Officially, the team captain’s only duty is to represent their team on the field during the ceremonial coin toss.

(Although you and I know that they do a whole lot more than that)

Some players may feel uneasy in this position.

So make sure your prospective captain understands this ceremonial duty and feels comfortable on the field with the referee and their opponent’s representative for the coin toss.

Developing a Soccer Captain:

If you can’t find one, make one.

After reading the list above, maybe you think there isn’t a player on your team with all of the qualities of a great captain.  

Your future team leader may be quiet or shy right now.

So it may be hard to identify a potential captain or some of the qualities listed above in shy or precocious younger players — they’re still developing.

And as the coach, you’ll be the one helping to develop these qualities in all of your players.  

There are bound to be individual players who embody even the earliest beginnings of soccer captain-level qualities.

female soccer team in a huddle

Creating Tomorrow's Leaders:

So, you’ll need to look ahead.

Ask yourself these questions:

“In the FUTURE, could I see Player X being self-confident (punctual, humble, respectful, etc.)?”

“With a little practice, could I see Player Y being a great communicator (emotionally intelligent, respectful, selfless, etc.)?”

Ask yourself these questions regarding each of your players.

Use your imagination and project down the road a bit.

There are probably a few candidates that you hadn’t considered.

Be what you want to see!

You’re looking for a young player who embodies all of these great qualities in a team leader.

If you want to see it, you also have to be it...

Because your players take cues from you!

Show them as a coach, as a leader, the qualities that you value.

Let your team know what you are looking for in a soccer captain.

Ask them why those qualities are important in a captain.

Your players will appreciate it and strive to embody what you value.  

And, finally, allow yourself to be surprised by who rises to the occasion.

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