Book Review: The Captain Class by Sam Walker
The Captain Class by Sam Walker is a great leadership book that I recommend to all athletes and coaches. What makes this book unique is how instead of focusing on the leadership of coaches, it focuses on the leadership of players, specifically the leadership of the captain of a team. Walker makes the case that the leadership of a captain is the most important contributor to team success.
I can’t say I completely agree with the author’s claim that the captain is the most important factor. I personally believe that having a great coach and a talented roster are about just as important as having a great team captain. No matter how good a team captain is, they still need the help of their teammates and coaches to succeed. However, I also believe the value of captains is very underappreciated. Too much importance is placed on coaches and talent, and not enough is placed on captains. This is unfortunate, because it is the captain that acts as the mediator between the coach and the players. The captain helps establish the coach’s culture within the locker-room. The captain is the coach on the field who more directly helps motivate and guide the team during games. Without a good captain, a coach has a much harder time getting his/her entire team to buy into the team’s culture and goals. A team with a great captain can still succeed with a mediocre coach and/or a mediocre roster. This is because the captain helps bring out the best in his/her coach and teammates. A great captain is the catalyst that helps a talented team with a good coach go from good to great!
Most teams however, underestimate the impact that a great captain can have on a team. Like I said, they focus too much on finding the right coach and talented players, and not enough on finding the right captain. This is why I believe teams can separate themselves greatly by focusing more on captains and developing the leadership of their players. Reading this book is very important because it teaches you the seven qualities of great team captains, which are:
1. Having great competitive drive that inspires teammates to give more effort.
2. Playing aggressively and testing the limits of rules to help will their team to victory.
3. Being an unselfish servant leader without caring about earning credit or recognition.
4. Having emotional intelligence and being a great communicator.
5. Displaying nonverbal acts of emotion that help inspire teammates.
6. Having the courage to call out coaches and teammates to help the team improve.
7. Having great poise and control over their emotions.
By learning and emulating these seven traits, you can become a better team leader and make an enormous impact on your team. As an athlete, it doesn’t always seem worth it to be this committed to your team. It’s tempting to make excuses and dish out responsibility to your teammates and coaches, but if you decide to be a better team leader, you can help your team achieve unimaginable success. Even if you don’t get credit for it, it’s totally worth being a part of great team. And as a coach, you have to take responsibility for finding and developing great team captains.
In this book, Walker brings up a great point about the current culture’s attitude on leadership and captains. Nowadays, there are many coaches who think that having only one captain is not enough. They think having more captains will help give the team a greater sense of ownership. Or they think that having only one captain is unfair to the other leaders on the team. This however, as Walker points out, can sometimes do a disservice to the “institution of captaincy.” By having too many team captains, you really have no captain at all. There’s value in having fewer team captains. For example, a team needs to know who their indisputable leader is. Also, by having fewer captains, the captains will feel a greater sense of responsibility to do a great job, and younger players will want to strive harder to become a future captain. I personally believe that a normal-sized team only needs 1 or 2 captains. However, a sport like football, with 50-100 players may need 3-4 captains.
The only problem I have with this book is the second quality of great captains. I personally don’t like when athletes try to bend the rules to help their team win. I think this is a form a cheating and hurts the integrity of the game. I believe sportsmanship and fair-play should be completely endorsed by all coaches and players.
Other than that, I really enjoyed this book. It was very well-written, well-researched, insightful, and fun to read!