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American Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year Mike MacIntyre addressed the AFCA Convention in January, after he led the University of Colorado to a 10-2 record and a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
The process that McIntyre and his staff used to choose team captains for the 2016 season led to the best leadership he had ever seen on a team. That is high praise from a coach who has spent a lifetime dedicated to this profession.
Players should have a majority of the say in who the leaders of the team are. Many times, coaches make mistakes in choosing their captains, because they aren't choosing kids that the players follow. That is a critical error.
This about this process that Colorado used. What would this look like in your program?
With the whole team in the room, MacIntyre first asked all of the players who did not have one and a half years in the program to leave the room. About 35-40 percent of the players got up and left the room.
Next, he told the remaining group to make a list when he left the room. This list would be written on a white board in the front of the room. He told the players to develop a list of all of the characteristics that a team captain should have. This took them about 45 minutes to complete; it was all player-led as he waited outside the room.
Then, coach MacIntyre came back in the room and said, "If you have these characteristics then you need to stand up."
A small group of guys stood up. That must have been gutsy to do. He then explained to the whole room that they needed to come to an agreement. "Do these guys standing up right now match up with the list you made? If not, tell them that they are not a leader. And tell them why. What on this list that you made are they not living up to?"
He told them to come get him when they had a smaller group still standing.
He said that again, they spent 45 minutes communicating. They would say to each other that you're not this type of guy right here because you did this or you did that. There was a lot of accountability that happened in that room.
When Coach MacIntyre came back into the room, there was a smaller group standing.
"I then said, ‘Now choose five of these guys still left, they will be our team captains.' I told them that they had to have an open vote. Everyone in the room would know exactly how everyone voted, who they voted for, and who they did not vote for."
That took them an hour to do. They selected two seniors and three juniors.
"Those guys were probably not all the same five we would have chosen. But this was the absolute best group of student leaders I've ever had." Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.