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Being a college basketball captain means a ton of responsibilities

January 21, 2013

As Bryant University senior guard Frankie Dobbs will attest, there’s a ton of ground to cover when serving as a college basketball captain. Photo courtesy of Tom O'Brien.

WARWICK — On a day that saw this country honor the memory and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and watch as President Obama mapped out his second-term desires, it seemed appropriate to talk leadership.
Specifically, leadership and the set of guidelines college basketball teams employ when selecting captains, along with what this honor means to those bestowed with said responsibility.
The theme of Monday’s Rhode Island college hoops brunch, held at the Radisson Hotel, centered on the young men and women with a ‘C’ appearing next to their name. Instead of coaches stepping to the podium to talk about the season to date, the captains were thrust into the spotlight. The messages were succinct and culminated with well wishes for everyone in the room over the balance of the 2012-13 campaign.
Given the mood, we thought it would be a fitting exercise to ask several coaches and players for their thoughts on several matters relating to the captaincy and the weight such a high honor carries.

How do prospective captains distinguish
themselves from their teammates?
Tim O’Shea, head men’s coach, Bryant University: “You’re with these kids 365 days a year and over a period of time, so you just know. (Bulldogs senior guard) Frankie (Dobbs) is one of those guys who may go into coaching and does the right thing all the time. It’s not always about points and assists; it’s the leadership he provides.
“When you have a fifth-year guy like Frankie, it allows your team to be the best it can be. Sometimes that could result in a .500 season or less, but he’s a tremendous leader. He’s an interesting case because despite all the losing we went through the past few seasons, he never quit.
“He actually had a fifth-year option [to transfer to another Division I school and play right away] because he graduated last year, but it’s a testament to his character and maturity that he’s hung in there. The leadership he’s provided is one of the big reasons why we’re having success right now.”

How are captains selected?
Mike Martin, head men’s coach, Brown University: “We observed the players from Sept. 5 to Oct. 5 [when the NCAA grants permission for teams to practice on a limited basis], watching closely their work ethic and demeanor. Then they had a team vote and coaches were included, too. It came out that (seniors Matt Sullivan and Tyler Ponticelli along with junior Sean McGonagill) were the overwhelming choices.”

Bob Walsh, head men’s coach, Rhode Island College: “We actually have an interesting approach. We sit in a room and anybody who wants to be considered has to get up and write their name on the board. Then anybody who wants to nominate somebody else can get up and write that person’s name.
“When all the names are on the board – if you don’t want your name to be on the board, you can take it off – the players talk if they have something to say about some guys, then they vote. Personally it’s important to me [that the players have a strong say in electing captains] because it’s their team. Second of all, they are the ones who recognize who they may want to follow.”

What are some of the duties a head coach expects his captain(s) to carry out?
Walsh: “Captains for me are technical – they have to meet with the referees and they’re the ones who are allowed to ask questions during the game. If practice changes on a moment’s notice, they’re the ones getting in touch with the guys.”

How crucial is it for the captain to understand that he/she is an emissary for the coaches and players?
O’Shea: “Truthfully, if the coach has to be the leader and the captain, chances are you’re not going to be very good. Leadership has to come within your group. We’re very fortunate to have someone like Frankie who’s willing to assume that role.
“A lot of times you have a kid who’s capable of being a leader but doesn’t want to do it. In Frankie’s case, he’s embraced it but in a way that everybody on the team looks at him. He doesn’t do things in an authoritarian way, trying to tell guys what to do. He leads by example and his teammates follow him.”

How do captains view the position they’re in?
Frankie Dobbs, senior guard, Bryant University: “I’ve been a captain at the high school level, but at the Division I level, it’s a whole new meaning. You not only set the example on the court, but off the court as well, whether it’s socially or making sure to go to study hall.
“Chemistry is one of those unknown variables that doesn’t appear on the stat sheet, but it’s important to have cohesiveness. I definitely play the role of mediator between the coaches and my teammates.
“In some respects, I’m able to relate to the players more than the coaches do and that allows me to relay the way the coaches say some things in a different fashion. It’s important to translate (the orders from the top) depending on the teammate’s personality or way of thinking.”

Rob Alers, sophomore guard, CCRI: “You want to make guys focus on the main point of what they’re doing. The basketball team is my second family and you want to make sure that you do the things that will allow you to have success on the court.
“Just follow my lead and the good example I try to set. The message to your teammates has to be positive because you want them to follow in your footsteps,” remarked Alers, a 2010 graduate of Central Falls High School.

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