Athletic team captains may be saddled with more responsibilities than other players, but those added tasks can actually improve their performances.
Those are the findings of a study that examined the performances of 201 National Hockey League captains going back almost 40 years. By correlating statistics on goals and assists, researchers were able to determine that when players were captains they performed better than when they weren't in the leadership role.
The results, published in the fall issue of Personnel Psychology, surprised lead researcher David V. Day, psychology professor at Penn State University. Instead of the responsibilities being "a drain on one's resources," says Day, "there's a resource enhancement effect -- being more noticeable and being seen as a valued resource that gives you opportunities as well as protection."
Translated to the ice, that means that captains are protected more by players, perhaps leading to fewer injuries and giving them better chances to score more goals.
Other sports such as basketball and baseball have captains as well, but the title carries less weight and responsibilities, Day says. Enhancing the position in other sports, he adds, may result in better play, even at the high school level or earlier.
"There may be some reluctance on the part of some kids or parents to make them a captain, fearing that they won't be playing as well," he says. "The bottom line is that being designated as a captain can have beneficial effects."