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  • Matt Ondesko

Leadership Opportunity

Updated: Aug 20, 2019

By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos by Geoff Schneider/Sports Union

A good leader is constantly growing and evolving. A respected leader provides inspiration. I hope that I can inspire my team today and every day,” - Riley Lucarelli.

Being named a team captain is quite the honor. The position of captain is given to those athletes whom the rest of the team respect and trust to lead the team in the right direction. However, with this great honor also comes great responsibility.

A captain must be accountable after a bad performance or practice. Captains are expected to perform in the clutch and lead the team to victory. It is also expected that captains will maintain control in the most pressurized situations and be the model of excellence for their teammates.

Is it really worth it to be a captain?

Being a captain is one of the greatest honors an athlete can receive. Yet, many athletes take this honor for granted and do not understand the significance of their responsibilities as captain. In fact, in some situations, captains may be selected because they are popular amongst their peers rather than being a suitable candidate for the captaincy.

Athletes should take the captain’s role very seriously and put some thought on what it means to be an effective captain.

A captain can come in all ages. You don’t have to be the grizzly old veteran to be a leader on a team. Sometimes, a leader is someone who is able to connect with young and old. They are able to get their message, and the coaches message, across to the team in a way that isn’t rude or condensing.

If there is one thing that is true it’s being a leader is not easy. Not everyone is a born leader. Some or thrown into the spot light and they have to try and learn as they go. They one thing a person must remember is that they were named a captain amongst their peers for a reason.

They were tapped on the shoulder to lead their team on the court, the floor, whatever sport they are taking part in. The biggest thing to remember is to not change who you are. Because he or she was named to lead the team doesn’t mean they have to change how they act.

There is a reason for the confidence their peers have in them.

If there is one thing that is never easy it’s leading a team of your peers. Getting upperclassmen to believe in their message could be difficult.

This past offseason Canisius College women’s lacrosse named rising junior defenseman Riley Lucarelli (Lancaster High School) one of their captains for the upcoming season. It was an honor that Lucarelli wasn’t going to take lightly.

“I was humbled and proud that my team and coaches thought to nominate me as captain this year. I decided to focus all my energy on becoming the best captain I can be. I want to live up to the expectations that my teammates and coaches have for me. I have also set very high expectations for myself. Accountability is a necessity. I’m so proud to represent the Canisius Women’s Lacrosse team as a captain this season,” stated Lucarelli. “As a junior, I absolutely feel ready to be a leader on this team. Mainly because I have been surrounded by so many great leaders during my time at Canisius. I have taken different pieces of wisdom from each of them. I am also confident in the other captains I have by my side this year.  I know they will always have my back, and they know I always have theirs.”

This isn’t the first time Lucarelli has been looked upon to lead a team. She was a key piece of the puzzle for all those Lancaster High School championship teams while in high school. But, high school is much different then college.

When Lucarelli found out that she was going to be named of the captains of the Canisius lacrosse team, she wanted to make sure she took it very seriously. Lucarelli just didn't want to wear the ‘C’ on the her jersey and just go through the motions.

She used this summer to work on herself, you could say. She wanted to make sure that she was mentally prepared for the rigors of a season. Being a player is a lot different that being a player with a leadership role on the team.

Lucarelli wanted to make sure she all in when the season starts.

“During this offseason I obviously prepared myself physically, but I also had to prepare myself mentally. I am committed to being the best leader I can be on and off the field for this team. I have always been a player that tries to lead by example,” stated Lucarelli. “You have to practice what you preach, basically. The other captains and I work very well together. This offseason we bounced ideas off one another. We put together team building activities and really encouraged open lines of communication on the team. As far as communication goes, I know that as a captain I need to be more vocal on the field and I have been working on that aspect this offseason.”

While Lucarelli is preparing to be the best leader she can be for the upcoming season, Bishop Timon High School senior John Glascoe has been cherishing his role as one of the leaders of the Tigers this winter.

After a lean couple of years, the Tigers are back as one of the best teams in the Federation, and Glascoe is a big reason why.

“It is important that a team always gets along. Occasional fights will break out because we’re with each other all the time like brothers. It’s important for a team to love one another. I learned that we need a mindset that consists of putting every small piece we have and making it into something greater than ourselves. No one is better or worse than anyone,” stated Glascoe. “I knew I was ready to be a leader of the team after last year’s go around under previous captain Gavin Farrell. We worked hard together and although we came up short in the end , he taught me a lot on how to be a leader.”

Being a leader amongst his peers in high school brings a different kind of challenge then college. Peer pressure can work its way into anything while in high school. In this case, you men are looking to find their way during their first couple of years in school.

They are looking to find their place among friends and teammates. As a leader, Glascoe wants to make sure his message gets across to the team as soon as possible. Laying the ground work early will lead to success later on.

“It is very important to get my message out to the seniors right away. With our season only being about 26 games in about a three month period, we needed to be ready to go from day one,” stated Glascoe. “We have gotten off to a good start, but we have not done anything yet. Losing for us is not an option.”

Lucarelli’s season has yet to begin. As always Canisius will play one of the toughest schedules in the country. She knows there will be ups and down throughout the season. After all, expectations are very high every season at Canisius.

It’s NCAA tournament of bust for this program.

"Every season is a new beginning. You can’t predict this year’s outcome, based on last year’s results. Obviously you want your team to end up on top, everyone does. I have confidence in my team. We work hard each and every day and we do it because we want to be the best. There are going to be ups and downs throughout the season. If there are some disappointments in the early part of the season, my message to the team would be don’t get so high on the highs and so low on the lows,” explained Lucarelli. “We have to look to the next one and be able to bounce back. Make each experience a learning opportunity. We can’t reminisce and think about the lows , we need to move on and focus on the next. We can’t fall apart when something doesn’t go our way. We need  to stick together as a team through good or bad and when we get pulled back we can only go up from there. My main message would be keep your head up through anything and move on through the wins or losses and look ahead to the next one. We don’t have time in our schedule to dwell on anything. I will always remind the team that everything is a learning experience , as long as we take something away from each experience we’re moving forward.”

If there is one thing Lucarelli has learned it’s to be herself. She was voted as a team captain for a reason. Lucarelli doesn’t need to be someone different. She just needs to be the person that was voted into this position.

She needs to show everyone that she is ready for the task at hand. One way to do that is by being transparent. It’s easy to be fake, but teammates will see right through it. Being real is what has gotten Lucarelli to where she is today.

She is a leader on a team that has a lot of leaders, and talent. And she is one of the best defensemen in the MAAC.

“It is really important to me to stay true to myself. I won’t change who I have been for the past two years. I know that I was chosen to be a captain on this team for the person I have been the past two years. I don’t want to change that at all. I want to build on and improve the person I have been the past two years. My goal is to be the best leader and person I can be this year. I don’t let the title of captain define me because Coach Daley expects every player on our team to be a leader, not just the captains. I am committed to giving everything I have to this team . I hold myself to a very high standard and I expect the same from each of my teammates,” explained Lucarelli. “Transparency is the key to trust. My teammates have to put their trust in me. In order to establish that trust, they need to know I always have the team’s best interest in mind. I always put the needs of the team above all else. I think that honest feedback and open communication builds a trusting relationship. I respect my teammates just as much as they respect me. We are all equals, and I take their suggestions for improvement seriously just like they take mine. I know my team will hold me just as accountable as I hold them.”

Added Glascoe: “I feel that it is extremely important to be transparent as a leader. In the first few practices when some of the boys were not be playing up to par, it wasn't good of a leader to be nasty or yell at them. Being the same age, you just have to approach them, see what is wrong, and you just have to push them to work hard. It is the coaches job to tell us what to do, but it is the captains’ job to get under the boys to make sure the team is always taking a leap up instead of a step down.”

Your great captains have an undeniable passion of the game. They love competing for themselves and their teammates. They put the success of the team before the success of themselves, that’s what makes a great leader.

As a captain, they should be treating their teammates with respect and making sure they recognize the contributions made by all those on the team. The captain is the one that should be the one to stop rumor spreading and gossiping. These kinds of behaviors destroy team chemistry.

They also need to be able to step up. They have to “walk the walk, and talk the talk,”and can’t be afraid to compete in the worst of situations. A solid captain needs to set an example for the rest of the team. They need to be a model for which the rest of the team will follow. They need to set lofty goals for themselves and their teammates, and make sure they hold everyone to those goals. Finally, a strong captain must be able to show that you can trust your coaches and teammates.

Captains can’t cut corners. Cutting corners does not earn the respect of their teammates. Telling a teammate to do one thing, while you do another can easily break apart a locker room. There are all kind of different kind of captains, and leaders. Some lead by their actions, while other may be more vocal. The goal is to get the message across for the greater good of the team.

“A good leader is constantly growing and evolving. A respected leader provides inspiration. I hope that I can inspire my team today and every day. I believe the adage that playing sports not only builds your character, but also reveals it,” stated Lucarelli. “Sometimes I’m not going to be everyone’s best friend on the team, but I’m going to hold everyone to a high standard. As I know they will hold me to one as well. A good leader is supportive, positive, responsible, caring, accountable, dedicated, loyal, confident and proud of the team their representing. I am absolutely thrilled to be where I am at this moment.”


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