How to Lead a Sports Team During a Pandemic
By: Maxmillian Robinson
1, 2, 3 Panthers!
Teammates and coaches huddle up after a challenging practice, regaining their stamina and integrity after a long hiatus from the sport. As most of the players head back into the locker room and hit the showers before class, the coach calls out one of the players to share a word with them.
Being a captain of a sports team is no easy task. These players are some of the elite few, taking the high road in every situation, checking on their teammates and making sure the coaches are on the same page with how the players feel. This is not based on luck; rather it requires skill to accomplish the many different tasks of these athletes.
“The responsibilities I have as a captain on my team is to make sure everyone is
upholding our team values: accountability, dedication and family,” said Grace Wegmann, co-captain of the women’s volleyball team. “If team members stray from these values, my co-captain, Katie Schloss and myself ensure our players get back on track. We are also the direct line of communication between the team and our coach.”
This sentiment of being a team leader gets overlooked often when it comes to all the nonessential factors that come with having that responsibility.
“As a team captain, it is my responsibility to motivate and lead my teammates to perform their 100 percent on and off the court and spread the messages from Coach Rebecca to the teammates,” said co-tennis captain Barbie Quagliardi. “Since our season has been postponed to spring for this year, many of my teammates are not back in the United States and we are not able to practice as a team, which is a big discouraging factor during this time. That’s why, for this semester, I dedicated myself to communicate with my teammates and make sure they are pumped up for our season next semester.”
However, Wegmann said perhaps the most important duty she has as captain is to rally her teammates when they’re down in a game.
“I know what each individual player needs after she makes a mistake, along with checking in on my teammates to ensure they’re mental and physical health,” she said. “We also cultivate an environment where everyone is respected and their voices are heard; one that promotes enjoying the game and each other, while working hard to achieve a common goal.
“There’s a wide array of skills needed as a captain. However, the three that stand out to me are being personable, having the confidence to speak up for your team and being level-headed,” Wegmann added. “Teammates need to feel comfortable enough to speak with their captain about any given situation no matter how difficult or emotional the conversation may be. This not only builds trust, but allows for open communication, which is essential if conflicts arise throughout the season.”
Wegmann stated that captains must also have the confidence to speak up for their team because they are usually the direct line of communication between the players and the coaching staff.
“If the players want change, the captain needs to be able to voice their concerns to the coaching staff without apprehension,” Wegmann said. “A captain must also approach difficult situations with a clear head in order to make the decision that will most benefit the team. They need to tackle situations with a level of composure despite the potential chaos surrounding it. As a captain, you learn to put the interests of the team above anything else.”
While there may be much skill required to obtain a position like this, where did the skills needed to become captain derive from? How were these athletes influenced to gain these skills?
“People that helped me the most during my time as the team captain were my Coach Rebecca and Assistant Coach Karen,” Quagliardi said. “I learned from Rebecca how to handle crisis situations with proper decision making. From Karen, I learned how to be less stressed and enjoy the thing I am doing, which is going to help me with how I will approach my teammates as a leader. But one of the most important things that they taught me is that a great captain doesn’t care just about tennis, but also the life of a person (the mental health).”
Wegmann said, “I can’t narrow it down to one person that has helped me during my time as captain because there are several. My co-captain, teammates (both present and former), coaches and parents.”