Captains of club sports teams discuss responsibilities, pros and cons
What is a captain? To some, a captain is a leader, a motivator and an inspiration. For others, a captain is a friend, a mentor and much more. Not many people can exemplify these forms better than the UC Davis club sports team captains.
“I think [a captain] is…someone [the team] can look up to, someone that can help guide them,” said James Wang, a junior physics major and captain of the club table tennis team. “Whether bad or good, we’re always there supporting them, pushing them to keep them going, to let them know once they’ve done their best – that’s good enough.”
Like many other sports club players at Davis, Wang had previous experience in table tennis and decided to continue this interest when he got to university.
“It’s a sport I really love; for me it’s a balance between studying and doing something that’s not studying,” Wang said. “Table tennis is a way to get away from [school]. It pushes me because I’m practicing hard at table tennis, and I’m doing my studies also, so [they] kind of balance each other.”
Junior cell biology major and captain of the men’s club volleyball team Joshua Frost played volleyball for seven years before coming to Davis, and although it was not a deciding factor for his college decision, he was interested in pursuing the sport at Davis.
“I think there are different types of captains,” Frost said. “I think one of the major roles that captains play is acting as guidance for the team. Another important role is the captain [has] to be able to communicate to the coaches what the players are feeling, and vice versa – what the coaches want and being able to communicate that to their team.”
For senior electrical engineering major and club racquetball captain Lindsey Raven, being a part of a competitive sports team was something she hadn’t experienced in high school and was looking for in college.
After months of training and practice, Raven worked her way up from the women’s “C” league to the women’s “A” league, and is now playing in the men’s “B” league. Although only having played racquetball since her first year, she was appointed to captain position entering her third year at Davis.
“Whatever the captain does, the rest of the team’s going to do – if the captain isn’t responsible, the team isn’t going to be responsible,” Raven said. “A captain is someone who at all times should be considerate and understand the goals of the club. [A captain should] be there for when people need help and be there for when people want to learn and express interest.”
Sophomore entomology major and Judo club captain Keith Wong said an important part of leading a team is managing relationships and making sure all team members are accounted for.
“You’ll have people that [can be] a little overzealous on the mat so [captains] have to manage that,” Wong said. “On top of that we also have to make sure during away tournaments that everyone’s there and accounted for, on and off the mat. For Judo there are a lot of formalities, like you have to bow all the time – [making] sure that everyone knows how to do that [too].”
This year, the Judo team sent a team member to Tunisia and later to South Korea for an international collegiate tournament and another team member to Prague. Wong says in terms of California teams, the UC Davis Judo team is definitely one of the top three.
Although the captain of a sports team does everything they can to improve the morale and skills of other teammates, their position also involves a lot of managerial elements, such as transportation, emergency services and the team’s accommodations for away games and tournaments.
Frost said his experience as captain of men’s club volleyball has helped him improve his leadership ability.
“It’s important to know your players individually, and I think that’s something that transfers to any leadership position in general,” Frost said. “You need to know the personalities of the people [you’re working with], what jobs they’re going to be good at, and how to get them engaged and focused on the task ahead.”
Although leading a team can be a time-consuming task, the captains agreed that it is extremely rewarding and worth the commitment.
“The [most fun] part is getting to learn everybody’s skills,” Raven said. “As captain I get to match and pair people for when they practice, so it’s interesting because I get to see them grow as players and I get to say ‘oh, I had a part in that.’”
Wong said his favorite part of being table tennis captain is seeing everybody happy.
“I’ve really enjoyed [being captain] because I think of my club and my team as a family – so when the team does well and everyone’s happy, it makes me feel really happy,” Wang said. “[Being captain has] taught me a lot. I had some leadership coming into it, but growing from that – I feel stronger in a sense, since now I know how to lead a team.”
Graphic by Jennifer Wu.