To the outside observer, a soccer captain is distinguished only by his armband, but to the players and captains, a captain is much more. Captains act as mediators between their fellow players, coaches and referees. A good captain leads his team both on and off the field and is chosen based on leadership skills, not physical abilities.
A captain represents the team in decisions related to game procedures. Before the game, a captain is responsible for submitting her team's roster to the referee and opposing team. At the start of the game, the captains of both teams meet with the referee to decide who kicks off and who defends which side of the field first. Finally, in disputes over calls or questions on rulings, a captain mediates between the referee and the players on her team.
A captain helps mediate a coach's instructions to the players on the team. This can include guiding players on the field toward coach-dictated strategies, informing players of practice schedules or assisting the coach in any general way. Likewise, a captain represents the player's concerns for the coach. Captains will dictate player problems and concerns to the coach and help create solutions to problems.
A good captain is primarily responsible for providing leadership to his teammates, both on and off the field. Captains usually lead conditioning drills and pregame warm-up routines. During games, captains encourage players and promote good sportsmanship. Off the field, captains are responsible for providing a model of etiquette. For younger players, this can include encouraging other players to do well in school and modeling basic good behavior.
Choosing a good soccer captain is an important decision. Avoid simply choosing the player with the hardest kick, the most goals or the fastest sprint. Look for players who work hard, are respected by their fellow players and work to promote honest play. Choosing a player who does not meet these requirements can undermine the players' respect for the captain and team, ultimately negating the functional purpose of the captain. In some instances, having the players vote to elect their own captain is the best way to choose.