Tag: the captain class

WYC 128 – The Captain Class – Sam Walker talks the 16 sports dynasties and what they all had in common

In The Captain Class, Walker profiles the greatest teams in history and identifies the counterintuitive leadership qualities of the unconventional men and women who drove them to succeed.

He began by setting out to answer one of the most hotly debated questions in sports: What are the greatest teams of all time? He devised a formula, then applied it to thousands of teams from leagues all over the world, from the NBA to the English Premier League to Olympic field hockey. When he was done, he had a list of the sixteen most dominant teams in history.

With the list in hand, Walker became obsessed with another, more complicated question: What did these freak teams have in common? As Walker dug into their stories, a distinct pattern emerged: Each team had the same type of captain—a singular leader with an unconventional skill set who drove it to achieve sustained, historic greatness.

Website/book: bysamwalker.com

Twitter: @SamWalkers

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The secret to winning is not what you think it is.
It’s not the coach. It’s not the star.
It’s not money. It’s not a strategy.
It’s something else entirely. – Sam Walker – The Captain Class

Inspiration for the book

  • Sam’s little league team went undefeated, and he didn’t realize it but that was the last team he would be the last time he would experience a sports championship, and it led him to being curious about sports championships.
  • The 2004 Boston Red Sox was a group of crazy players, they were struggling mid-season, then they turned it on and went on to break the 100+ year curse and win a championship. This got Sam to wondering what the make-up of great teams really is.

Coaches – Develop your leaders

  • The commonality found in the world’s most dominant dynasties was the characteristics of their captains
  • The captain needs autonomy, to act as a middle-manager between the players and the coach
  • On gameday – stop over-functioning, back off and let the captains run the show

Youth coaches – Key characteristics to Develop

  • Carrying the water – They shouldn’t want to be the superstar, they should want to serve the team first.
  • Relentlessness – Players who have one gear, no matter what the score is
  • Communication amongst teammates – A rah-rah speech is not what works, you want a leader that has one-on-one interactions with their teammates, is intense, uses body-language, uses humor. Charismatic connectors. Introverts are often the best leaders!

Choosing captains

  • It often makes sense to not make the star player the captain. Being the star is burden enough. The person needs to be the coach’s right-hand and, therefore it usually makes the most sense for a coach to pick the captain vs. the team voting.
  • Remember when nominating them – you want someone who will stand up to you and not be afraid to express a dissenting opinion.

Do you need captains on a team?

  • Sam says absolutely yes. Just remember – it doesn’t need to be the star. It needs to be the water carrier.

Sportsmanship – The Cuban National Volleyball team

  • Two types of Aggression:
  • Hostile Aggression – Driven by hatred or a desire to hurt somebody – This is negative.
  • Instrumental Aggression – Looks similar, but the motive is to win. It turns off as soon as the game is over. This can be positive.

Parting Advice

  • Find a partner – a captain – on your team

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Quit Worrying About You As A Coach & Start Focusing On Your Captains ?? Captains Part 2 of 4

The secret to winning is not what you think it is.
It’s not the coach. It’s not the star.
It’s not money. It’s not a strategy.
It’s something else entirely. – Sam Walker – The Captain Class
I just finished reading Sam Walker’s The Captain Class. He studied the most successful professional sports dynasties over the past 150 years and looked for common traits those teams had.
​​​​​​​If you’re like me, you assumed it would be one of these:
  • A legendary coach
  • A superior organization structure
  • A G.O.A.T. player
Spoiler alert – the common trait he found on the 16 teams he deemed as the ‘tier 1’ dynasties was none of these. Instead, it was a captain that possessed the following 7 characteristics:
  • Doggedness and its ancillary benefits
  • Playing to the edge of the rules
  • The hidden art of leading from the back
  • Practical communication
  • The power of nonverbal displays
  • The courage to stand apart
  • Regulating emotion
What is fascinating about his list is the contrast in what we currently think of as the best leaders/captains. Michael Jordan’s and Derek Jeter’s teams did not make the cut.

The leaders of his 16 tier 1 teams were not interested in talking to the media or being great public communicators, in fact they were the opposite. They did not want the recognition of being the face of the franchise. 
As a Cavs fan I have constantly wondered about Lebron James’ self-declarations as being ‘the greatest player on the planet,’ and how that affects his relationships with his teammates. We’ve seen one answer to that recently with one of the other best players on the planet, his teammate Kyrie Irving, asking to be traded, citing not wanting to play with Lebron.
Lebron’s characteristics, similar to Michael Jordan’s, do not fall in line with this list the best dynasties possess. It doesn’t mean they won’t win, Jordan and James have multiple championships. Walker argues that it just means their non-team-first attitudes make it hard to have sustained success.
The biggest takeaway I had from this fascinating book was:
As a coach, I need to spend less time trying to become ‘the perfect coach,’ and much more time trying to develop my leaders and captains with the 7 characteristics on this list.
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