Team Captains: Pros and Cons (poll)

#1

What are the pros and cons of having a designated team captain? My team hasn’t had one for 2 years, and so I never got to experience what it’s like.

Do you have a team captain?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes, but we don’t want one
  • No, but we would like one

0 voters

Is it helpful to some teams?
Has it broken some teams apart?
Is the “too much power” issue common?
Does your team have multiple “co-captains” instead?
For teams who don’t have one: Why not?

#2

The teams I’ve worked with have had a team president and vice president, and varying numbers of subteam captains (electrical captain, outreach captain, etc). Team president is probably most analogous to what you mean by “team captain”. I’ve seen really good presidents who did a good job coordinating all the subteams and keeping the team on schedule, okay presidents who tried to do that but weren’t super effective, and mediocre presidents who didn’t contribute much beyond their technical skills (but also didn’t really harm the team, and usually the VP picked up the slack and it was fine).

A good president keeps all the balls in the air and makes sure nothing slips through the cracks. It’s a good leadership opportunity for the student, and allows the mentors to be a little more hands-off and give more rein to the students, without sacrificing having a well-organized and effective team.

I haven’t seen the “too much power” issue; I would guess that’s because having subteam captains shares the power among more people and the president is really just their manager (as opposed to the person making all the technical/team direction decisions).

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#3

My team has two team captains; one of them is a senior and the other is a junior. Our intent is for the senior to handle most of the responsibility and to teach the junior the ropes. When the senior graduates, the junior (now senior) steps into his/her role. Another junior is appointed and the cycle continues.

In my 4 years on the team, we’ve never had a problem with the senior co-captain having too much power. The engineering aspects of the team are handled by the respective technical leads, and our public relations lead does a lot of work that the team captains could do themselves.

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#4

We have in a few years (2013, 2014, 2016, 2017), but I’ve liked it better when we don’t have captains. It reinforces that job roles aren’t appointed but rather earned, and you don’t have to have years of experience to get them if you do a good job.

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#5

We use aproject manager and a chief engineer. The Pm oversees/ managers the whole team. The CE oversees/ manages anything robot related. Machine, assembly,pit etc. The CE’s job is also to talk to the judges/ scouts etc so they don’t pull a critical pit member for questioning. Each sub team has a leader Cad,Pit,Business,Safety etc. All are voted in by the team. Mentors give their suggestions for PM

#6

We’ve always had co-captains. We have a preference for pairing them from different grades, but it’s not a rule (this year we had two seniors, for example). That’s simply to help the long-term health of the team through continuity of leadership - if you don’t have that continuity from the student captains, then it falls on the mentors to provide it. Additionally, having a captain that knows what the role entails lets them accomplish more and do it better than if all the captains are brand new - they’ll need more mentoring and guidance to get up to speed.

Power is never an issue - our leadership handbook lays out the specific responsibilities of each role, including captain… and doing that ensures the responsibilities are spread among many. Regular meetings between the captains and mentors, or other leads and mentors, helps keep everyone on the same page and smooth out any wrinkles that come up.

I think you need an ultimate authority on the team. You need a position that can coordinate between all of the other leaders, resolve scheduling conflicts and guide the direction of the team. It’s a position that is responsible for ensuring the team is moving in the right direction and meets all of its deadlines. It doesn’t matter if you call it captain, president, manager, chief, etc. It’s a role that needs to be filled. If it’s not being filled by a student, then it’s probably being filled by a mentor. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s worth recognizing how that role is being filled, and consider each year if there’s a better way to do it.

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#7

yes
no
no
yes

#8

If you told me that I would be one my first year of joining robotics, I would not believe you. At all. Why? Because I dislike having a leadership role. But I’ve stepped up (only for robotics) because

  1. Robotics is my passion.
  2. I wanted to make things better and easier for freshman so they don’t have to waste 1 year of fun and experience to understand FRC.
  3. I was one of the very few who actually learned through the process of build season, competition, offseason, and other teams.
  4. Was very inspired by other teams mainly 148.

I’m 1 of 2 co captains of my team. I handle more of the mechanical stuff- designing, making sure people are working on stuff with right tools, etc. We put out meeting notifications. I also stay later to help with the mentors with parts that they wouldn’t trust students with or some part with a bit of refining that hasn’t been done.
My co-captain does the accounting stuff- BOM, CAW, anything else that’s a form. She also builds parts too.

We don’t do a voting poll for a captain as there isn’t a set guideline. Our school is heavily biased with class presidents already by people voting for their friends instead of those who actually do the work. People just come naturally and those who are willing to learn just step up naturally following suit of the previous seniors. My freshman year, there wasn’t much leading. I sometimes wouldn’t even get notified about meetings and had to find out about them through chat. We used to only have a set Facebook Group. This year, we added Google Classroom.

To your concern about “too much power,” I do not see where that could ever happen. Student Captains work closely with mentors so whatever the captains want to do still needs to get passed by the mentors. Of course, with a group chat the mentor isn’t part of, things can be said here and there and be misleading. If the captain says something that’s really off the hook, chances are it would probably get reported.

Edit: I forgot to mention that there also isn’t interviews or anything as we are a small team of 2 mentors for 15 years. We all know each other. New leaders don’t just pop up at grade 9. They learn, and boom.

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#9

After being in a club with and without, I think having one is good but should be mentor led. I hope our team finds one.

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#10

We only have what you would call sub-captains and assistants, who are interviewed for the positions by the mentors.

One day every week of build season is mentors and leads only, to plan the work for the rest of the week. Leads will also brief the whole team on what they have been working on so students in other groups are informed.

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#11

This is the best in my opinion. It also gives students a schedule and doesn’t lead to bad decisions

#12

On 195 we have multiple team captains, usually anywhere from 2-4 depending on the size of the senior class that year. The captains role (among other things) is to work with what we call The Board, a collection of mentors who guide most of the decisions on the team. They help with decision-making and are usually the liaison between the rest of the students and the mentors. In addition to this we have student leads of each sub-team who’re in charge of all the processes that the sub-team has to complete, as well as filling in what their sub-team has accomplished over the past week at our weekly meetings. We’ve found this to be a good balance of power as well as keeping a very fair level of transparency. I also think that this is a good way to bridge any disconnect between the mentors and students that can naturally occur as well as make it so that the students always have a voice.

We’ve been running this way for a good number of years now and haven’t really had any issues. That being said, 195 is larger than the average team (Most years we’re around 54-56 students) so I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect fit for everyone, but I think having a team captain or some degree of a flow of leadership is an important thing for most teams to have.

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#13

I am personally the Co-Mechanics captains for my team (2nd year). My team has 6 captains and about 14-15 leadership people (team size 50-60 depending on this year). Having 6 has served us well to make sure everything thing is covered and making sure the cross subteam communication is done well (having programming, mechanics, and marketing captains). As a student-led team, having six captains helps to make sure decisions are well thought out and all sides are covered. We try to have a least 1 or 2 of the captains to be juniors to make sure the knowledge is passed on. With the leadership people, we are able to delegate jobs such as mechanism lead (Whether programming or mechanics) or taking charge of an outreach event. I hold back with 6 captains however is they need to be able to work together extremely well and efficiently.

#14

Sometimes.
Sometimes we have a captain, sometimes we don’t.
Sometimes we like having a captain, sometimes we wish we didn’t have one.
Sometimes it’s best to have one person in charge, sometimes it’s best to have the load shared.

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#15

We used to have co-presidents for our first 11 years of our team’s existence. While this approach generally worked well for us (i.e. presidents did their duty, no power issues, etc.), after talking to some teams at Detroit Champs last year we discovered the “Leadership Council” model. In this model, we have different “leaders” for each sub team (i.e. building/design, CAD, outreach, media, etc.). They are responsible for leading and managing the members who joined their sub team, organizing meetings, and reporting back to our mentors about progress. We found this approach to be much more effective than a co-president system for a few reasons: One, we’re a large team of over 60 active members, and it was quite stressful for 2 students to lead 60 other members. Two, it allows new members who are uncertain about what they want to do to talk to the different leaders about their specific subteams. Three, the power on the team is more balanced; rather than having 2 students with the most power there are over 10 students with equal power.

Check out our Leadership Council page: https://www.gnsrobotics.com/legacy/leadership-council/

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#16

Every subteam has a lead, and we have two team captains to manage them and have final say on decision making when the team is split on a decision.

We have co-captains because it allows no one person to have the power to make a stop decision by themselves.

It hasn’t really broken some teams apart, the worst case that could happen is they’re incompetent, but others can usually pick up the slack.

#17

We don’t have captains. We have CxOs: CTO, CMO (marketing) and COO (operating). In addition, we have group “build leaders”. The robot build is divided into teams (electrical, chassis, elevator, intake; depends on the game) and there are group Leaders and hopefully “sub leaders” (I forget our official term).

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#18

Starting in the 2018 season, we went to a Team Captain as project manager with technical leads reporting to the captain. Before that we had various combinations of team captain and co-captains depending on the mix of students on the team. The reason we went to a project manager model was because we realized that we needed one person who’s job was to manage the big picture so that tasks don’t fall through a crack. We had also gotten to the point that our team was big enough that there were enough students who were interested in leadership that we could populate the sub team positions. Our team structure is always a work in progress as every year we are dealing with a new set of students with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. So far, this project manager model has been working pretty well.

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#19

Yes. Our team captain basically was the go-between between mentors and students. He had our respect, but he was also a fellow student and knew about workload with sports and homework.

Not for us, he always asked our opinion on things (he was also in student gov which I think helped with this)

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#20

As a student captain I might be a bit biased, but I think that it can be beneficial to have a student “oversee” all the other students. For me, it comes down to that some students react differently to mentor oversight than to student oversight. I find that they’re more receptive to sharing their ideas and concerns when a peer is asking rather than an adult, which can be intimidating.