How to choose a captain of a youth soccer team?

Choosing a captain of a youth soccer team can be a daunting task. It’s not just a matter of standing out on the pitch with a captain’s armband. You need to find someone who can lead the team, make quick decisions on the field, and inspire your teammates to do their best. It is hard to do it at a professional level, but where do you even start at the grassroots? How do you know who is the right player for that? Let’s see the different roles of a captain at different ages, the traits to look for in a youth soccer captain, and how to make the final decision.

The Search for the Perfect Captain

What are the roles of the captain at different ages?

The role of the captain can vary based on the age of the team. For younger teams, the captain may serve as a motivator and role model for their peers. The captaincy also serves as an extra motivator for the player, not as much of a responsibility that usually the coach has. As the team gets older, the captain’s responsibilities may expand to include leading drills, organizing practices, and communicating with the coach. These are all roles that the coach and the assistant coach have when the players are at U10 or younger. However, to develop the players in the right way, the coach will start delegating small tasks to the captain.

Do I select a new one each season or each game?

There is no hard and fast rule about when to choose a new captain. Some coaches may choose a new captain each season, while others may select a captain for each game. It’s important to consider the team dynamic and choose a captain who can lead the team both on and off the field. At U10, I usually choose a captain for each game and often times there is even a vice-captain, to avoid any player being overwhelmed. Furthermore, it’s a great motivation tool for insecure soccer players. What I like to do at the U11 through U13 level is to choose a captain for the season. Keep in mind, there is a fall and spring seasons, as well as summer tournaments. So in a year, there might be 4-5 captains, which is good to balance the responsibility. From U14 and up, we choose a captain for the entire year.

Is this the first season the team has a captain?

If this is the first season the team has a captain, it’s important to discuss the role and expectations with the team. This will help ensure that everyone understands the captain’s role and can support their leadership. One reason why this is the first year with a captain is because they are U11 and this is the first time there is a captain for a longer period of time. In that case, I suggest limiting the initial responsibility, but adding over time. For example, the only instruction is to do a 5 min physical warmup before a game without the coach. Over time, there will be more requests, like setting up rondos or being in charge of making sure everybody has the right uniform. And it just keeps growing from there.

Guiding Traits of a Youth Soccer Captain


One of the most important traits of a youth soccer captain is commitment. They should be dedicated to the team and willing to put in the effort to lead by example. Look for someone who attends all practices and games, and who is always willing to lend a helping hand. At the youth level you value commitment as the highest priority, and choosing the role model in the group of players is the key to success.

Extrovert vs introvert?

When it comes to personality traits, extroverts may seem like the obvious choice for a captain. They would tell jokes and stories on and off the soccer field. However, introverts can also be effective leaders. Look for someone who is confident and assertive, but who also listens to their teammates and values their input. Getting a good balance between the two is important. If somebody is an extrovert, but talks about other things than soccer, then it’s not a good fit. Similarly, if somebody trains well, but really doesn’t talk at all, it will not work. Striking some balance between the two is the right way to go.

Soccer skills

While soccer skills aren’t the key factor to consider, it’s important to choose a captain who is a skilled player. This will help them earn the respect of their teammates and make them a more effective leader on the field. Furthermore, you can’t have a player who sits on the bench and is not happy, because they can’t hold their spot on the team to be the captain. It is ok if the player is not getting playing time because of injury, but a lack of skills is not going to work. Sometimes coaches want to have players that play in the middle of the pitch, such as a box-to-box midfielder that can act as a carrilero or a holding midfielder, but it’s not that important.

Decision Time: Who Will Lead the Team?

Once you’ve considered all of the traits and responsibilities of a youth soccer captain, it’s time to make the final decision. Consider all of the candidates and choose someone who has the skills, commitment, and personality traits necessary to lead the team to success. Don’t forget that at younger ages the captain has a shorter time, so if you make a mistake, it is not a big deal. Also, as they get older, it is not a bad idea to let the team choose their captain. 

Building a Stronger Team Through Captains

Choosing the right captain can help build a stronger team dynamic and lead to greater success on the field. Encourage your captain to communicate with their teammates, lead by example, and inspire their teammates to do their best. With the right leadership, your youth soccer team can achieve great things on the field.

Choosing a captain for a youth soccer team may seem like a hard task, but with the right approach, you can find the perfect leader to guide your team to success. Remember to consider the different roles of the captain at different ages, look for important traits like commitment and soccer skills, and make the final decision based on what is best for the team. With a strong captain leading the way, your youth soccer team will be unstoppable.