That's News to Me

The fact of the matter was, we weren’t practicing well, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on the reason why. The year was 2015, and I was in the middle of my fourth season at Springville. We were 6-8 at the time, and had just taken a top-5 team down to the wire. We were clearly trending in the right direction, but something seemed off.

 After another ho-hum practice, I did something for the first time in my career. I called a captains meeting.

 For years we elected captains, but for the most part our meetings were limited to the pregame conference with the officials. They served the team in title only, but I was desperate to figure something out. It couldn’t hurt to see what they thought. I’ll never forget that Thursday afternoon meeting in my classroom. I thanked them for coming and carefully laid out my complaints about our work ethic and practice dedication. I wondered if they could help solve the mystery of our missing enthusiasm.

 After a few moments of hemming and hawing, one of the seniors finally said, “Coach, nobody’s having any fun.” That was news to me because I was having a great time. I loved scouting our opponents and breaking down film. Nothing could be more fun than blowing up the other team’s best plays, right?


 Apparently what was fun for me wasn’t necessarily fun for them. I had a lot to learn, and for the first time in my career, I understood how much the players could help. We made some adjustments during the final weeks of that season, none more important than continuing to meet regularly with our captains. That’s a tradition that has continued to evolve over the last 11 years, but I can confidently say there won’t be a single decision I make this season that isn’t vetted by our captains first. 

 I recently asked our team to reflect on the benefits of having a captains council. Everyone appreciated the captains having input into the schedule. From team building activities and dinners to practice and film sessions - the captains are free to suggest changes from week-to-week depending on how the team is feeling.

 Our players also said they felt confident that if there were any concerns in the locker room they would filter back to the coaching staff through the captains, and that together we would come up with a solution. The freshmen commented on how welcomed they felt by our leaders this year, and how much they appreciated them checking in on them during the week to see how they were doing on and off the court.

We have also experienced significantly more buy-in from the team because the captains are carrying the water for us in the locker room whenever there are questions about what we’re doing. That’s not to say their job is to always stand up for the coaching staff, but they are able to encourage others to accept our decisions because they understand why we do what we do.

After that first captains meeting so many years ago, I walked away thinking about captains differently. They could serve me with insight into the team dynamics and a perspective I was clearly lacking. However, today I realize that their most important role is to serve the best interests of the team. They are not my puppets, but an independent voice that represents their teammates in all that we do, and nothing could be more important for the growth and development of our culture than this.

Food for thought.

Nate Sanderson

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