Although coaches agree captains are important, at Keene State College they have different methods of ensuring that there is leadership on their teams.
“No one is born as a leader, you have to learn how to lead, and if we can steer people towards leadership traits, that’s about the most important thing we do here,” head volleyball coach Bob Weiner said. “These people get a special class on how to lead.”
While most KSC coaches designate one or two captains every season, Weiner is taking a more unconventional approach this year. After assuming both of his captains from 2012 would be returning, he learned over the summer that one would be transferring while the other chose not to play in her senior year.
Weiner reasoned he could either hastily assign new captains or go without leaders for the season. Instead, he developed a class-by-class hierarchy, naming a “class representative” for each grade. Rather than captains, Sammy Dormio represented the juniors while Olivia Broderick and Brooke Bell represented the sophomores and freshmen, respectively. Noticeably absent from that list is the seniors— Weiner has none.
Men’s and women’s swimming coach, Jack Fabian, is using the more traditional captain system. Fabian meets with his captains every week as part of a leadership course he teaches them. Each week, they go over a different chapter in “The Team Captain Leadership Manual.” The captains usually have homework and also occasionally have to present on different topics.
“They’re getting good, we’ve covered quite a bit of material,” Fabian said. “It just gives us a bigger coaching staff, by working with them every week we can divvy up coaching duties.”
Nicole Rutigliano, one of the women’s swim captains, also sees the benefits of the weekly meetings. “It helps us get closer with our coach and we can talk about things that came up during the week,” Rutigliano said. “We also learn about things that are in each chapter about being a better leader.”
Just because coach Fabian’s system is organized doesn’t mean it’s not subject to change. Last year the girl’s team had only one captain, then-junior Stephanie Murray. It seemed Murray would be handling captain duties alone again this year until Fabian added Rutigliano onto his “coaching staff” just before the season.
Since then, Rutigliano has made the most of her unexpected captain role, admitting sometimes she feels the weight of her added responsibilities.
“There is a lot of pressure, but in mostly a positive way because I want to be a positive leader to them,” Rutigliano said. “So I try to look at it as something that’s good for me also.”
Rutigliano understands how she could be seen as an added member to the coaching staff, but mentioned an important distinction between captains and the coaches.
“Having a captain is important because your coach is there, but he’s your coach, he’s there to work on the professional athlete level,” Rutigliano explained. “Whereas I’m doing it with [my teammates] and I’m on their level. They’re going through the same thing you are.”
Weiner sees both sides of captains’ roles as well.
“Captains are the go-betweens between the coaching staff and the players,” Weiner said. “It’s their job to make sure the tone gets carried out, but obviously the idea of a captain is it has to be someone who can be on the coaching staff.”
Regardless of what captain-system teams use, it’s clear they are all trying to avoid the dangers that come with a lack of team leadership.
“When you don’t have a strong leader or they’re not being a positive role model then the team is just not going to be as strong and do as well they could,” Rutigliano said.
Fabian also sees captains as an important part of combating the rough patches that inevitably come with each long season.
“Things are going to go wrong and it’s important to teach the team how to handle that,” Fabian said. “We just want to represent KSC in the best possible way. That’s how you get pride, when people respect you and you respect yourself.”
Zach Winn can be contacted at email@example.com