Players take varied approaches to captainship


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Junior Toma Beit-Arie (number 13) discusses strategy with the soccer team during a game against Weymouth on Sept. 26. Beit-Arie was recently named one of the captains for the 2014 season. He will be responsible for boosting team chemistry.

Junior Toma Beit-Arie (number 13) discusses strategy with the soccer team during a game against Weymouth on Sept. 26. Beit-Arie was recently named one of the captains for the 2014 season. He will be responsible for boosting team chemistry.

When New York Yankees shortstop and captain Derek Jeter announced his retirement after the 2014 season last month, it sent shockwaves throughout the baseball world. It was not so much the timing of the statement – at 37, Jeter has seen better days – but the sheer prospect of a Jeter-less Yankees squad. Since his emergence in the 1995 season, Jeter has become all that we associate with the Bronx Bombers.

So what makes Jeter the ultimate captain? Most analysts will say a cool on-field demeanor and an uncanny ability to come up big in crucial situations. And, through and through, an unbreakable grin.

Student athletes at the high school view captains in a critical light, which is not unlike the way many sport pundits and up-and-coming baseball players look at Jeter.

“If everything is done correctly, the team captains are the most experienced, wisest and most able players in the locker room,” senior Nate Birch, a captain of the boys varsity hockey team, said. “By allowing these players to assume their roles as rightful authority figures, the coaching staff is creating a power hierarchy, which is essential to the success of any team.”

Senior Gigi Gray, one of the two captains on the girls varsity basketball team, said the role of a captain on a team is paramount in that they have to act as a middleman between players and coaches, relaying messages from one source to the other. This, in addition to being a potential mediator of issues amongst team members, is what makes the role of a captain so vital.

Gray said her availability and on-court communication abilities are her defining skills as a captain.

Similarly, Birch opined that a captain’s quality of leadership is related to a team’s level of achievement.

“The team needs to be given advice by its captains so that it can steer itself towards winning games,” he said. “Without captains, there’s confusion, too much individuality and insufficient consensus in the locker room.”

Not to be overlooked in discussion of value is the process for actually choosing them. Methods for selecting captains vary across sports, with some teams finding out in the time frame between tryouts and opening games.

Junior Toma Beit-Arie, recently named a captain of the boys varsity soccer team for the 2014 season, said each player on the team is instructed to draft an email detailing who they believe to be the best captain candidates in preparation for the start of the season. After receiving the emails, the boys varsity soccer coaches convene and decide who the captains should be based on the responses.

 

According to Gray, captain decisions are made exclusively by members of the girls varsity basketball team.

“Teammates decide who the captains are,” she said. “Our coaches want us to pick someone who we think is a good leader and very vocal on the court.”

Gray and Birch were split when it came to the question of captains and perceived talent. Does a captain need to be a top athlete and producer to earn the respect of teammates?

“I think anyone can be a captain,” Gray said. “You could be the worst person on the team, but if you are a leader and are responsible – that person people rely on – then you can be a captain. I’ve seen teams where their captain didn’t even start.”

“To be a successful captain, you really need to have legitimacy to supplement your authority,” Birch said. “What that means is that a captain’s authority must be respected by the rest of the team if he is going to have any meaningful influence. Legitimacy usually comes from your teammates when they acknowledge you as a top player who contributes to the team’s success. That’s why it’s helpful to be good.”

Senior Matty Gladstone, a member of the boys varsity baseball team, said when it comes to the yielding influence, there is one person captains everywhere can aspire to be like. Even if that person dons pinstripes.

“Personally, I don’t know Derek Jeter, but I’ve always seen how he carries himself on the field and I’ve always respected him because he’s clean-cut and everything,” Gladstone said. “I think every year, captains should be natural leaders. That’s why they are picked.”

Matthias Muendel can be contacted at bhs.sagamore@gmail.com

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