The transition between being a player to leading a team

May 20, 2019 — by Nitya Marimuthu

Senior Isabella Tan, then a junior and a cross country captain, stood next to coach Danny Moon, waiting for the final runners to finish running the practice course. As the minutes ticked by, both Tan and Moon grew increasingly worried that the runners were lost or hurt.

The sun began to set and Tan knew it was time to take action. She ran the path that the team had finished earlier, searching for the girls. Finally Tan spotted the lost girls walking near downtown, unsure of how to get back. Tan helped guide them back to the high school.  

Directing team runners was one of Tan’s many jobs as team captain.

When made a captain, players have to make a mindset change and learn to put their teammates’ needs before their own. Captains, more so than regular athletes, lead by example and set the tone for all players.

Senior Kyle Yu’s role as basketball team co-captain differed slightly from Tan’s mostly individualized role. Along with fellow captains Hanlin Sun and Sehij Dhindsa, Yu dealt mostly with ensuring that the team was communicating well and keeping the team chemistry alive. He also worked closely with coach Patrick Judge.

Yu recalls the transition into his role as captain in his senior year, when the upperclassmen “were looking to play for themselves” or were struggling to play well. At this point, Yu started stepping in vocally by instructing team members and getting the team back on track through his directions.

As captain of the girls’ soccer team, senior Sasha Pickard also described her role as primarily vocal. In her position as center defender, Pickard said she was expected to keep team members in the right locations even before becoming a captain.

After becoming a captain, Pickard said she had to change the way she addressed her fellow teammates to motivate them and keep them on track.

“I made sure to be encouraging and to try and acknowledge everyone’s successes and efforts on the field, but I also had to learn how to constructively give advice and get everyone to be serious when we needed to be,” Pickard said.

Following their rise to captain-status, the athletes learn the weight of their actions. With the entire team looking up to them as role models, they have to learn to be cautious of their behaviour in order to positively influence other teammates.

The captains learn they have to change their focus to encompass the entire team rather than just their own performance.

“As a captain, I looked more to help others and mentor them so they would learn more from me,” Yu said.

For Pickard, learning to find the balance between having fun and staying focused was the hardest part, but she knew that team members were relying on her example, which drove her to change her mentality.

“I love having a fun time, but this year I had to learn how to find a balance between having fun and working hard, so that the girls would still have fun playing but also improve their game by focusing and working hard in practices,” Pickard said.

Tan also looked to help others, but in a slightly different manner. Due to the nature of her sport, Tan acquired the jobs of conducting core workouts, finding lost members, leading runs, taking attendance and planning team bonding nights on top of running as a regular member of the team.

Through the process, Tan learned to become more assertive.

“I didn’t drastically change how I presented myself when I became a captain, as I still tried to be friendly and laid back with my teammates,” Tan said. “But at the same time, I also was more authoritative in doing things like making announcements and leading core workouts.”

Nevertheless, these additional jobs paid dividends. Yu said that his most memorable moment as captain occurred when the team beat Los Gatos for the second time at home against the common expectation. Yu said that many had doubted the team’s talent, and the game was away, adding to the pressure on the team.

Yu said that he learned to first ensure the team was operating well before concentrating on his own game.  

Being a captain requires the will to put others’ well-being first.

“As a player, I was more worried about my own performance than the team as a whole,” Yu said. “When I became captain, I needed to sacrifice my own success and focus more on everybody playing well and more together.”