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WARWICK â 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 Mondayâs Rhode Island college hoops brunch, held at the Radisson Hotel, centered on the young men and women with a âCâ 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 OâShea, head menâs coach, Bryant University: âYouâre 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. Itâs not always about points and assists; itâs the leadership he provides.
âWhen 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 heâs a tremendous leader. Heâs an interesting case because despite all the losing we went through the past few seasons, he never quit.
âHe actually had a fifth-year option [to transfer to another Division I school and play right away] because he graduated last year, but itâs a testament to his character and maturity that heâs hung in there. The leadership heâs provided is one of the big reasons why weâre having success right now.â
How are captains selected?
Mike Martin, head menâs coach, Brown University: âWe 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.â
Bob Walsh, head menâs coach, Rhode Island College: âWe 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 personâs name.
âWhen all the names are on the board â if you donât want your name to be on the board, you can take it off â the players talk if they have something to say about some guys, then they vote. Personally itâs important to me [that the players have a strong say in electing captains] because itâs their team. Second of all, they are the ones who recognize who they may want to follow.â
What are some of the duties a head coach expects his captain(s) to carry out?
Walsh: âCaptains for me are technical â they have to meet with the referees and theyâre the ones who are allowed to ask questions during the game. If practice changes on a momentâs notice, theyâre the ones getting in touch with the guys.â
How crucial is it for the captain to understand that he/she is an emissary for the coaches and players?
OâShea: âTruthfully, if the coach has to be the leader and the captain, chances are youâre not going to be very good. Leadership has to come within your group. Weâre very fortunate to have someone like Frankie whoâs willing to assume that role.
âA lot of times you have a kid whoâs capable of being a leader but doesnât want to do it. In Frankieâs case, heâs embraced it but in a way that everybody on the team looks at him. He doesnât do things in an authoritarian way, trying to tell guys what to do. He leads by example and his teammates follow him.â
How do captains view the position theyâre in?
Frankie Dobbs, senior guard, Bryant University: âIâve been a captain at the high school level, but at the Division I level, itâs a whole new meaning. You not only set the example on the court, but off the court as well, whether itâs socially or making sure to go to study hall.
âChemistry is one of those unknown variables that doesnât appear on the stat sheet, but itâs important to have cohesiveness. I definitely play the role of mediator between the coaches and my teammates.
âIn some respects, Iâm 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. Itâs important to translate (the orders from the top) depending on the teammateâs personality or way of thinking.â
Rob Alers, sophomore guard, CCRI: âYou want to make guys focus on the main point of what theyâre 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.
âJust 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,â remarked Alers, a 2010 graduate of Central Falls High School.