Being a Varsity Team Captain
“Day in and day out you have to set an example for your teammates and friends,” said Matthew Solomon ’17, captain of the boys basketball team. Being named captain of a varsity team does not necessarily come with accolades or a bright spotlight as much as it comes with big responsibilities. Those responsibilities change team to team - on the track and field team, captains lead warm-ups and stretches; on girls soccer, they organize team dinners; and fencing captains send the meet schedule each week– but what remains consistent is the seriousness with which students approach their role.
Graham Kelley '19, sabre captain on the fencing team, said, “I felt honored to be picked and I saw that I could help, so, along with my co-captain, Harry, I worked hard at supporting the team and coaches through the little stuff like organizing equipment and communicating match schedules."
Captains usually emerge naturally. When asked what character traits he or she looks for in a captain, each coach has a slightly different list: maturity, courage, knowledge of the game, enthusiasm, hustle. One trait that is high on the list for every coach is strong communication skills.
Tim Quinn, boys basketball coach and assistant athletics director, says, "Captains are the lead communicator. On the court, on the bench, in the locker room, they make sure our team's mindset is where it needs to be. I may speak to the captain in a meeting to see how we are mentally and physically, sometimes a player may know more of how the team is feeling than a coach."
The importance of communication is not lost on the captains. In a myriad of ways, they find ways to support their teammates and strengthen their teams. Matthew Converse ’17, who capatains baseball, approaches communication directly, "During every game you have to help the team stay focused, whether it's through speeches between innings or one-on-one conversations." Volleyball Captain Stella Gatti '17 recognizes that good leadership requires good communication, "In a team sport like volleyball, teamwork is extremely important. It's the captain's job to bring everyone together."
When varsity coaches are choosing their captains, they are essentially choosing the players they believe are, or can be, strong leaders. The key elements of leadership differ somewhat coach-to-coach. Mayra Carrasco, Girls Soccer, looks for someone who can help the team during their most difficult moments, “I want my leader to be courageous and acknowledge the things that are scary and tough, but then help the team move past them together.” Christopher Howell, Track and Field coach, believes a leader must balance several traits, “Maturity and work ethic are as important as poise.”
Across the board, captains say the most important thing they do is serve as a role model. "Self-discipline is really important. You have to lead by example, even if they are your friends or you aren't very vocal, everything you do can set a good example," said Soccer Captain Malcolm Gibson '19.
Archie Brydon '17, soccer and baseball captain, said, "The job is about balancing having a good time and keeping the team focused Carolina Mahedy '17, cross country, swim, and track and field captain, describes being a leader as not just about discipline and focus, "The coaches chose me because they value kindness. I made it a point to welcome all the new players on the team. I made sure to give pep talks before each meet and congratulate everyone after regardless of the outcome."
Swimming Captain Ian Porter '17 related a story of supporting a teammate, "A swimmer who was at his first meet was in the bathroom feeling sick and ready to pull out of his race. It was a close meet, and I knew every point mattered. I went into the stall next to his and talked him up. I told him he could help the team and that I'd be there with him. He eventually went out and swam."
One of the toughest jobs for any student-athlete is to balance their academic and athletic obligations. Chante Stone, long-time varsity coach and physical education teacher said, "Our student-athletes balance a very demanding daily schedule. Many of them put in 10-12 hours a day at Grace between academics and athletics. We encourage our athletes to balance their workload, while maintaining a healthy lifestyle of proper nutrition and rest."
Matthew Solomon agrees. "Being a captain makes you accept another level of responsibility, and it translates to your classes. It requires more maturity and changes how you interact with teachers."
The long hours, extra work and added responsibility requires not only a dedication to excellence, but also a deep affection for the team. Amelia Milne ‘17, girls soccer, summed it up best. “It’s not always a glamorous job. It’s a lot of filling water bottles, carrying the ball bag, and emailing schedules, but I do it because I love my team.” See all the photos here.