When i heard that Sidney Crosby was named captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins to become the youngest captain in NHL history in early June – he’s only 19 years old, will be turning 20 in a couple months – it got me thinking: how young is too young to become captain of a professional sports team and when should a player be named captain of a team?
A player should not be named captain of a team until they are at least 21, maybe even 22, years old and have played a minimum of three to five years in the league league of legends. But of course, that’s just my opinion and I have my reasons for that.
Generally when you’re in your late teens or early 20’s, approximately 18 to 22, and trying to make a career in the professional league, whether it be the NHL, NBA, etc, you are still learning the game and attempting to make it to the next level from the minors to the “big show. ” Players are still trying to mature and grow into a player that can compete at such a high level. Once they reach the professional level of whatever sport they are in, they are still growing and maturing as a player. The game is different at this level because it’s a bigger stage, the game is faster, more difficult, etc.
You also take into account the emotional and physical factor that players go through when going from level to level – such as going from a to AA, from AA to AAA, and from AAA to the majors in baseball. Each level is more and more physically demanding on the player as well as emotionally demanding. So much is expected out of each and every player to see that they get stronger physically, learn how to keep up with the demand of the game, and to also learn how to take care of themselves so that they don’t break down and be forced to call an end to their career before they want to.
A player that has just reached their goal of making it to the professional level, on the “big stage, ” so to speak, may not realize that they’ll need to be more physical, more emotionally strong, more mature, etc and I think it takes time for them to adjust to this new level. They are trying to work on their game including gaining more strength, becoming stronger, getting along with new teammates and others in the organization, working on refining their skills whether it’s throwing a baseball or football, passing the puck, etc. Not to mention learning how to deal with the fans as well.
Getting along with teammates and other people in the organization is something very important for all players. If they are not able to get along with fellow teammates and others in the organization, the player may get the reputation of being someone who is hard to get along with and even if they’re working hard on everything else to make him a better player, it may not be enough. Getting along with people in the organization is critical at any level and if they aren’t able to do that from early on in their careers, it’s going to be very tough for them and affect them in other aspects that they may be trying to improve on.
Another big thing a player should have, and constantly working on whether a captain or not, is the passion and knowledge for the game. Yes, a player might have passion and knowledge about the game from a very early age but it’s not going to be nearly as great as later in their life which will fuel them into becoming the player that they want to become. Constantly working on that passion and knowledge is going to greatly help them in their early years of being in a professional sport, and will also help that person develop into the leadership role they want by displaying those strong leadership qualities including getting along with everyone. Having a great passion and knowledge for the sport can also help them become more emotionally and physically strong and become more mature because that also helps them in being a better player.
Because of these reasons, I believe that players should not be named captain for their team until they are at least 21, perhaps 22 years old, have been in the league for at least three to five years, and have shown that they have the leadership qualities that the organization is looking for. Consequently, they shouldn’t be known as a “bad boy/girl” getting into fights, having temper tantrums, lashing out against the media and teammates, etc. By meeting these criteria, they show that they can handle the pressure of being a team captain. They know how to take care of themselves and have matured in a variety of reasons.
All these reasons can be used for international players who come to North america and play. How the game is played here in America can be very different from how they are used to playing in their own country. The international players have to learn a new system of playing the game and in a way, learn how to adapt and take care of themselves in a different way than before. Granted, there are also players who are used to making the adjustment between levels. These exceptions that should be taken into consideration as to when they can be named captain of a team here in America. I think it should be up to the team to make the call, but perhaps waiting a couple years should be a criterion in order to make sure that the international players have made the adjustment, worked on their skills, etc before naming them captain.
But don’t get me wrong – being named a team captain at age 19 is definitely an accomplishment. Sidney Crosby, who has been an assistant captain since midway through the 2005-2006 season, has shown that he has matured as a player and adjusted to the professional level faster than many may have thought. He has obviously shown that he has developed leadership skills and adjusted well including his level of maturity. He is both emotionally and physically strong, and gets along with many people such as his teammates and the media. The Pittsburgh Penguins have obviously picked up on this and have given considerable thought in placing Sidney Crosby as the next captain of the Penguins. Even Crosby’s teammates have said that he has demonstrated leadership qualities. Teammate Ryan Whitney said in an article that he (Crosby) has been a leader and that he will continue to be a leader. Whitney also said that he hasn’t seen anybody with the passion for the game like Crosby has.
You also have to put this in perspective – Sidney Crosby was named captain at 19 years, 297 days, which is 27 days younger than when Vincent Lecavalier was named captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Lecavalier was 19 years, 324 days old when he was named captain and at that time, was the youngest player in the NHL to be named captain of a team. However, Lecavalier had his captaincy stripped from him after two years because of him not performing at the high standards. This could have been for a variety of reasons – maybe not working on skills, maybe not being ready for the high level of physical, emotional, and expectation levels, or maybe because of something else.