Given a compact surface with boundary, we introduce a family of functionals on the space of its Riemannian metrics, defined via eigenvalues of a Steklov-type problem. We prove that each such functional is uniformly bounded from above, and we characterize maximizing metrics as induced by free boundary minimal immersions in some geodesic ball of a round sphere. Also, we determine that the maximizer in the case of a disk is a spherical cap of dimension two, and we prove rotational symmetry of free boundary minimal annuli in geodesic balls of round spheres which are immersed by first eigenfunctions.