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O captain, my captain!

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By: Chad Ouellette

Being named a captain is a great honour for any player. Whether chosen by teammates or coaches, the captain is a respected and trusted leader. There is not a specific personality type to being a captain, but they do have a few qualities in common.

But what exactly are those qualities, and what are the different types of situations captains are put in on a regular basis? Benjamin Tonin from Mohawk College; Rachael Shantz from Fleming; Taylor MacIver from Durham College and Owen Powers from Algonquin, are all different athletes with unique characters and distinct leadership qualities. One thing they have in common is that they all can rise to the occasion regardless of the situation. They are caring, consistent and thrive on being leaders.

Benjamin Tonin – Captain of the Mohawk men’s volleyball team

Benjamin Tonin is in his third year on the Mohawk men’s volleyball team, and is currently in his second tenure as captain. Ranked as an all-academic athlete, he prides himself on his ability to perform at his best whether he is playing or not. “I just have a natural leadership quality. When I get on the court, I thrive on the fact that I can motivate other individuals, and it helps me accelerate my game,” Tonin explains. But he adds being a good student is the most important.

Tonin had a rocky start coming into his first year until he was chosen as captain, and it changed his life. That is when he decided he needed to play harder and achieve his academic goals.

Since grade ten – aside from his rookie year at Mohawk – he has been in a leadership role when it came to volleyball. In the future Tonin hopes to own a business one day, and he says being a leader will help him along his path.

There are many traits that a captain should possess, and the three that Tonin thinks he has are team cohesiveness, alertness, and of course, leadership.

“Leadership isn’t where you decide to show up when you want and be a leader, and then show up the next game and not be. It’s about consistency,” says Tonin.

Coaches and professors have told Tonin that he needs to put being a captain on his resume, because he says it shows that he can not only delegate, but ensure that his team is on the right track. 

Matthew Schnarr, the coach of Tonin’s volleyball team, has a fantastic relationship with Tonin.

“He asks me anything under the sun to do with volleyball. If there’s a player that comes to check out the squad halfway through the year and is interested in playing, the coach asks me what I think about it,” says Tonin.

The biggest aspect about being a captain is proper representation. “It’s all about representing the college and the volleyball team. We
take a lot of the burden,” Tonin says.

Rachael Shantz – Captain of the Fleming women’s rugby team

Rachael Shantz, 20, is just starting out as captain of the Fleming women’s rugby team. Aside from being captain for one game with the Peterborough Pagans, this is her first time in the captain’s seat.

Some athletes have the advantage of being a born leader, but Shantz explains that she had to step out of her comfort zone to achieve her leadership skills.

“I haven’t always been able to put myself out there, and throughout my life I haven’t found that directing people was easy,” says Shantz. Her college and varsity experience from last year helped her develop into a captain.

Shantz says her positive attitude and encouraging personality are two of the main reasons she was honoured with captaincy.  By being organized, and ensuring her teammates are up to date with everything, she has taken on the role with relative ease.

Coming into the season, Shantz was nervous about the number of new players on the team. “I personally haven’t had a lot of experience with the new players’ aspect,” she explains. “But at our first game we pulled it together really well and everything is going so nicely that I haven’t had to deal with the building stage [of a young team] as much.”

Since her first game this season, where the Fleming Knights took down the Algonquin Thunder in a 43-8 win, she hasn’t felt the pressure of being a leader. But if there is ever a time when she must be, it’s when a teammate is acting out of character. “I do take it upon myself to make sure that everyone is calm, because I don’t want anything to get out of control,” says Shantz. “I don’t want people to feel angry on the field, because when people get angry the whole team tends to fall apart.”

With the Fleming Knight’s being guaranteed a spot in the OCAA championships, she can look forward to having the opportunity to lead her team to a gold medal. At press time Fleming did win gold.

Owen Powers – Captain of the Algonquin men’s basketball team

Before Owen Powers came to be captain of the Algonquin Thunder men’s basketball team, he was the captain of his Next Level club team in Ottawa. Having the experience coming into the OCAA enabled him to carry the title of captain without hesitation.

In the 2015-16 season, he split the role of captain with Murphy Beya – a player who recently graduated. Between the two athletes, Powers is more outspoken. “Murphy leads by example. Where I am the more outspoken guy,” he explains. “You will see me on the court telling people where to go, and where they need to be and stuff like that. I led vocally.”

The added pressure that comes with being a captain is something that Powers enjoys. He feels that the challenge brings out the best in people, because they are motivated by fulfilling the team’s expectations.

The most important part about being captain in his eyes is knowing the difference between being a boss and being a leader. “You have to be able to tell your team what you want from them, but also be there with them and doing the same things,” he explains. “You don’t want to be a bad teammate.”

An individual is chosen as a captain to lead their team, and being off the court doesn’t mean that you aren’t still responsible. Showing your team that you must be held accountable in the classroom is what a captain should be aware of always.

And awareness is something Powers brings to the table, going into his fourth year of OCAA eligibility. “I’m experienced in the league and I know what to expect when we go on the road. I’ve done the back-to-back games. I’ve been to the OCAAs [provincial championships]. I’m just more prepared for the year,” Powers explains.

The ability to go into a season, composed and with passion is integral. Powers will lead his team alone for the first time and knows exactly what he needs to bring to the court.

Taylor MacIver – Captain of the Durham women’s soccer team

Being able to lead and be a role model for the team is the reason why Taylor MacIver enjoys being captain of the Durham Lords soccer team. But not many OCAA athletes have the same experience as she has had, bringing two years of experience, from the National Collegiate Athletic Association from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz to Durham.

Before she came to Durham, she was set to play at McMaster University but unfortunately a knee injury made her ineligible for that year. This downfall turned around for the better when she came to play for the Lords and was named captain in her first year. Luckily, her lost year didn’t count as one of her five years of OCAA eligibility.

MacIver says that to be a captain certain qualities are key. “I think a captain needs to have the skill set while on the field,” she explains. “Girls want to see and respect their captain, so you have to be compassionate, you got to be trustworthy, reliable, and most importantly, have your presence known on the field.”

Unlike Shantz, who became captain of a powerhouse team, MacIver came to a team that hasn’t won more games than they have lost since the 2013 season where they finished with a record of 5-2-2.

“Coming from a team where I’m used to winning three points, it was easy to smile and laugh,” MacIver explains. “Fortunately enough with Durham, although we weren’t getting the points we wanted, every game was an improvement from the last. So, it was still easy to walk off [the field] smiling.”

MacIver says she must deal with a lot of criticism from people off the field. She constantly hears “Oh, you’re going to get spanked,” or “You’re going to get smacked,” so she has the tendency to go into games with a heavy heart. But just knowing that her team comes out and competes with the best is enough to keep her and the team going.

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