Big Green captains emphasize leadership and communication
By Maddie Garcia, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, February 18, 2013
While each Big Green team has a unique policy for electing its leadership and dictating responsibilities, many captains have similar experiences in their roles.
Whether they are juniors or seniors, co-captains or tri-captains, Big Green captains take pride in their position, are honored to be elected and work hard to help the team succeed.
Typically, the entire team votes for the following year’s captains when the season ends. Teams vary in how many captains they elect, with most teams sporting at least two captains but some electing three or four.
On some teams, coaches or previous captains make a final decision. Recently, many non-seniors have taken on the role of captain, demonstrating the value that teammates place in strong leadership skills at any age.
The track team votes at its end of season banquet and the three people with the highest number of votes are elected captain. Janae Dunchack ’14, Arianna Vailas ’14 and Megan Krumpoch ’14 are leading the team this winter and spring.
The women’s swimming and diving team and the baseball team elect captains in an end-of-season vote with the top two candidates earning the position.
The men’s basketball team waits until the first official practice of the current season so that incoming freshman players get a say.
While some teams allow only players to elect captains, others involve the coaching staff in the process.
On the field hockey team, the players vote, and the coaches tally the votes and decide who best fits the role.
The ski team elects four captains, one for each division within the team — men’s and women’s alpine and Nordic — and if there is a discrepancy in the voting, the coaches and previous captains resolve it.
This year, the women’s basketball team changed its system to accommodate its coaches’ preferences.
“In past years the team has voted, but this year the coaches just chose who the two captains would be,” co-captain Nicola Zimmer ’14 said. “We are a really young team and only have one senior on the team, so I knew I would have to play a leadership role if I was the captain or not.”
Once elected, a captain does more than serving as the team’s spokesperson, shaking hands at the beginning of games and wearing an arm band. They schedule preseason practices, workouts, team meals and bonding activities, as well as communicate with coaches and administrators and get to know each member of the team.
“The responsibilities are almost unlimited,” Maya Herm ’13, captain of the women’s field hockey team, said. “It has been one of my best and hardest experiences at Dartmouth. I had to gauge how everyone would respond to my style of leadership and elicit that together with my co-captain.”
Most captains emphasize the importance of serving as a liaison between the team’s players and coaches.
The captains ensure that the team’s “general vibe” is positive, hold players accountable to their commitments and relay concerns between players and coaches. Captains also play a large logistical role on the team.
“If the coaches sense an issue with the moral or attitude of the team they come to us and then we talk to the team,” Erin Henn ’14, captain of the women’s swimming and diving team, said. “We also plan team activities and acclimate the freshmen to the program.”
Serving as a captain also provides Big Green athletes with a valuable learning experience that transcends athletics and will benefit them in the future.
“I think the two most important things are transparency and communication within leadership,” Herm said. “It is essential that both leaders and non-leaders know the plan. Also, I learned the importance of respect for those in leadership positions and that when leaders are making hard decisions they should have the best interest of the team in mind.”
Men’s alpine captain Evan Diamond ’13, who will work for Teach for America next year, hopes what he has learned as captain will carry over to his future in the classroom.
“I think the most important thing is to get to know every single person and build a solid relationship with them and gain their trust first so that [others] are comfortable coming to me,” Diamond said. “I hope to bring this same mindset and vibe to my classroom and to build strong relationships with my students.”
Zimmer said she will carry communication and motivation skills beyond the women’s basketball team.
“I have learned the importance of communication and that each person is motivated differently,” she said. “I have learned to balance my actions based on how certain people respond.”
Vailas said she learned the importance of valuing each team member’s unique qualities.
“Being captain has challenged me to learn to work with a large variety of people who have their own attitudes and feelings and are motivated differently,” she said. “It is important to find a way to encourage everyone to be doing the right things and to work together as one cohesive unit towards our goals.”
Big Green captains must also strike a balance between being a leader and a teammate.
“There is a lot of give and take that happens,” Matt LaBove ’13, men’s basketball captain, said. “Once you make a decision though, you must fully commit to it. It is most productive when there is a leader but the whole team works together.”
Captains have learned to delegate responsibility and involve teammates, while still maintaining a leadership position.
“It is important to get everyone involved and respect their wishes while still maintaining a leadership position,” Krumpoch said. “There is a balance between respecting leadership and being careful with what you tell people to do.”
In striking a balance between being a leader and teammate, men’s baseball captain Jeff Keller ’14 learned to focus on what he can change.
“Early on I tried to make it perfect and go exactly how I thought it should, but I realized that you can’t harp on the minor mistakes and to focus on changing the big, important things and that hopefully there will be a trickle down to the little things,” he said.