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Once upon a time, I chose the wrong cheer captain.

I’m pretty sure that half of learning to coach is doing it wrong the first time. (So don’t feel bad. I’ve definitely been in your shoes before if you’ve done the same.)

She not only divided the team, but she also made my life more difficult. In the end, no one would follow her lead except her best friends.

Here’s what I learned: You’ve got to look deeper than the most popular, most talkative, or the natural born leader. Instead, you need to take a holistic approach because you need help you can count on and a leader your team can trust.

Now, here’s what I look for in a cheer captain.

1. Confidence


Okay, so I know I said that you shouldn’t look for most popular, talkative, or natural born leader … because there’s usually a bunch of overlap. However, sometimes that person is the right person (given the right school culture). But also, a leader has to believe in themselves to lead. If they don’t, no one else will.

2. Respect

A good leader has the respect of the team. So the cheerleader you want to be running the show (at least in the realms you give them) is one that everyone respects. That may not mean everyone is friends with them, but it does mean that when they speak, people listen and respond well. If they don’t respect them now, they won’t respect them once they’re in charge.

3. Boldness

I don’t mean the one who will say or do anything. I mean the one who is willing to break from the pack and do what’s right even when it’s unpopular. There will be times as a leader that they need to step away from what others want and see the bigger picture. Then they need to act on it. Make sure you pick a leader who will.

4. Skill

Yes, you need a good leader. But you also need a skilled athlete. You can do some balance with your co-captains or assistant head cheerleaders, but really you need someone who has enough skill to be taken seriously when they give corrections or share ideas. This is part of the whole respect package.

5. Cooperation

Coach, this one is for you. You should pick a captain you want to work with. This is the cheerleader you’ll be working most closely with throughout the year. You need to make sure it’s someone you get along with and who balances you. Really consider who you are and what you need as you think through the selection.

Your turn: What characteristics would you add to the list? What do you look for in a cheer captain?


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