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Lessons on Leadership from the Captains

Lessons on Leadership from the Captains

WATERTOWN, Wis. -- Leadership development.

This concept is at the heart of Maranatha Baptist University's mission - a mission that extends to the Department of Athletics, to the teams, and to the student-athletes. 

The mission of Maranatha Baptist University is to develop leaders for ministry in the local church and the world "To the Praise of His Glory."


The mission of the Maranatha Baptist University Athletic Department is to develop leadership skills in the student-athlete through skilled training, godly mentoring, and intercollegiate competition.

The desired outcome is clear, but how do the teams carry it out on a daily basis? One way is by giving the student-athletes a leadership role so they can practice leadership skills. Namely, the role of team captain.

Typically, the captains are selected by their teammates in a classic voting format. The eventual captain's teammates choose the peer that they want to represent the team as a leader. Whether the captain is chosen on the basis of playing ability, vocal leadership, organizing, encouragement, service, or otherwise, he or she is a leader in their teammates' minds.

So we at sat down with some of these student-leaders from the fall season to get their insight on leadership within a team. We found their insights to be varied and worth considering. 

M: What should be the role of the team captain?

Asa St. Lawrence (Men's Soccer): "I believe the key distinction is separating and defining the terms of "captain" and "leader". I believe the team can function without a captain. But without a true leader, it is impossible. [The captain] is the connection between the players and coaches. The captain is a pace-setter - [it's] a vital thing for a captain to model the type of behavior he expects. He must 'feel the pulse' of his team - if the team needs motivating, he will motivate; if they need loosening up, he will lighten things up. . . Finally, the captain is a caretaker. In short, the captain will do whatever it takes to make the team a successful one."

Madelyn Hansel (Women's Cross Country): "As a captain of a team, I believe you really have two roles. Obviously, to lead, but more importantly, to be a team player. A captain must be able to lead by example, and this is accomplished by being a good teammate."

Janae Jorgensen (Women's Soccer): "I think the role of the captain should be to know their players and find ways to motivate them and encourage them to be the best athlete, student, and Christian they can be. The captain is also a representative for the team when communicating with the coaches and referees. They are responsible for their team, and they stand up for their players and what is right."

M: How does a captain make an impact on their teammates?

Hannah Anderson (Women's Soccer): "One way to make an impact is to get to know each player on the team. Building relationships with each other will allow for a great connection and more open communication. When there is open communication, teammates will be willing to share concerns and ideas with you."

Lexi Bueltel (Women's Volleyball): "The captain can make an impact on their teammates in many ways. Whether it's on the court or off the court it's important to encourage every player, making them feel like an important part of the team."

Kim Grogan (Women's Soccer): "Captains have a great opportunity to impact the team because there is an ability to lead by example while also being on the court or field. Captains are not always the best players on the team, so their teammates can see improvements that are typically on the same level. This allows a captain to be the example in seeking improvement in all areas in-season and during the off-season."

M: In general, what is a leadership trait that you think is not emphasized enough?

Janae Jorgensen: "I think sacrifice is definitely not emphasized enough as an essential part of leadership. Leaders have to be willing to sacrifice their time, their schedule, their interests, and the spotlight for the good of the team. They do whatever it takes, no matter how long it takes to help everyone involved accomplish the goal."

Madelyn Hansel: "I think one trait that is not emphasized enough is being willing to lead behind the scenes. By this, I mean taking care of the small or unpleasant jobs that often go unnoticed and remain undone. As a leader, you have to be willing to lead out front, but also behind the scenes."

M: How has your coach set an example of leadership for you to follow?

Katie Bender (Women's Volleyball): "I really admire Coach's work ethic. Coach [Regina] DeLozier stands out because she is so diligent at watching film. Not only does she watch film on other teams, but she watches ours as well. I know I can trust her advice because I know she did a lot of study on the sport, our skills, and the skills of the other teams."

Cameron Rankin (Men's Cross Country): "I learned from both coaches [Isaiah Steinbart and Nicole Verhalen] that verbal encouragement can have a great effect on the runners. Both coaches frequently reminded us how we were improving (especially towards the end of the season), and it was easy to tell that the team responded to that encouragement by pushing harder in both practice and in meets. That was something that I wish I had understood better earlier in the year. Encouragement isn't just empty praise; for runners, it turns into motivation that drives us to push harder and run faster.

Brett Cournoyer (Men's Soccer): "First and most important, Coach [Jeff] Pill cares for each and every one of his players on a level that goes beyond their soccer abilities. He wants each player to become more like Christ on and off the field. He centers his entire coaching and emphasis in training and games on our core values pyramid. The personal relationship that Coach builds with his players is built on laughter and respect. We love spending time together and that builds a trust and loyalty that lasts."

Kim Grogan: "Coach [Dave Anderson]'s leadership skills are seen all throughout Maranatha's campus. . . I have learned to accept the strengths and weaknesses one has been given. Coming into the season this year, everyone knew that we would not be as strong of a team due to the number of players we lost from previous years, and he totally did not allow that to affect his outlook on the team. He expected excellence in the areas we could give it, and growth in the areas we struggled with."

M: What lessons have you learned about leadership during your time as a captain?

Brett Cournoyer: "Get to know the coaches. As a captain, you have more say with the coaches. I did not take full advantage of the wisdom of the coaches my first year of being a captain, but this year I was able to pick their brains and gain as much wisdom as I could from each of them on how to be a better soccer player as well as a better man."

Katie Bender: "Communication is key. When Coach [DeLozier] had an idea, she always ran it by us as captains, presented it to the team, and explained why the change was made. This builds respect for leadership because the players can see the motives behind the changes."

Cameron Rankin: "I learned a lot about patience and humility. As a captain, it's easy to think that you deserve a lot more respect than you actually do. But in reality, the captain is the same as everyone else on the team. The captain is to be a leader by example. I wasn't the coach and wasn't meant to have the authority to tell people what to do. Understanding my position was key to actually being effective in my role."

M: How would you advise future captains?

Lexi Bueltel: "The best leaders lead by example. If you expect your teammates to give their all on the court then you better give 110 percent. And always encourage your teammates to do better."

Asa St. Lawrence: "First off, follow Christ's example of leadership. But follow your convictions and [don't] give way to peer pressure. We are either driven by purpose or driven by pressure, so do what is right. We are commanded to love all, but we are not commanded to be liked by all. So love your [teammates] and follow God's leading and the rest will fall into place."

Hannah Anderson: "Know that your teammates chose you because they feel that you have qualities that are important to the team. Ask questions. If you have questions about your role, ask your coach. Be willing to help in any way you can - big or small. You are one of the main figures that your teammates will look up to, so you need to keep that in mind with everything that you do. The most important thing is to be willing to admit that you are wrong sometimes or that you do not always have it together. Have fun and keep everything that you do to the glory of God."


Each team at Maranatha has a deliberate process for communicating biblical principles of leadership to the student-athletes. The goal is to develop leaders, and in the minds of their teammates, these team captains embody the outcome that the University aims to achieve.

"The leadership training of both our institutional and department mission statements is a critical component of our success," said Rob Thompson, MBU Director of Athletics. "Specifically, the role of captain on a team can either make or break the bond between the coach and his/her players, and the bond between the players themselves. Being a captain is not about promoting one's own agenda, goals, or achievements, but rather having the desire to see your team reach its full potential to 'The Praise of His Glory'. If done right, being a captain is the combination of work, responsibility, opportunity, and ministry."