A member of the Mesa Community College men's basketball team jumps to shoot the ball in a scrimmage game against Mesa's Benedictine University on Oct. 15, 2022. (Photo by Monica D. Spencer)

The important role of team captain

Coaches offer leadership during practices, team outings, and in the huddle. However, as we all know, their position sees them sticking to the sidelines or dugout when gameday rolls around. 

That’s why most team sports enlist a few special players in their group to lead them on the field and court, and these individuals are called captains.

Why have a captain you might ask? 

If your team is good enough by itself, everyone should be a leader and be able to carry the team through tough times. Some believe if you pick the wrong athlete to be a captain, it can spell doom for your team from the start.  

So what makes a captain so special? Is it their athletic ability and their game intelligence? Is it their leadership and their ability to get others to follow and believe in what they’re saying? 

For men’s basketball coach Lester Neal, it’s a combination of everything.

“You have to lead on the court, off the court and in the classroom. When I say off the court I mean in the community,” said Neal. 

On a community college level, impacting the community might not seem like a very big deal to most, however when you affect your community in a positive way, you are able to reach those who will then support the team, program, and school.

For captains on any team, no matter the sport, the ability to calm their team down in stressful situations, or to get them to get back to the game plan when the game is getting out of control are powerful traits to possess.

However, some teams don’t find it necessary to specifically appoint a player to lead the team from an emotional aspect. 

According to women’s basketball assistant coach Sam Stevens, appointing captains for their team has never been part of their program. 

They believe in giving their team and players opportunities to lead themselves, and in due time, natural leadership roles will form. 

From building positive relationships, emotional perspectives to those bonds form and in doing so can be shared with one another. 

For their team and program, that insight has worked for them as they have had an incredibly high level of success for over a decade.

When it comes down to it, having players that can lead through their emotional leadership, or a lead by example mentality are incredibly valuable to a team to have. 

You can have great leadership at the top when it comes to a head coach and their staff, but at the end of the day, the players are the ones called upon to make the plays needed to take the team to new heights.


  • Dylan DeVlieger

    I am an Arizona native and love all valley sports teams. In my spare time I enjoy writing, watching, and playing sports.

  • Monica Spencer

    Monica is the photographer and photo editor for The Mesa Legend. A life-long resident of the Phoenix Metro area and a member of the Navajo Nation, she is passionate about showcasing life and politics in the desert Southwest. Monica is also a staff writer for Only in Your State and was previously a contributing writer for The Navajo Post.