Sweat drips off the girls’ red cheeks, the burning sun high in the sky, pressing its oppressive heat into the ground, the buildings, and the people. Many of the girls are struggling to keep cheerful, more content to sit down for “just a second,” then continue to work. But for three of the girls, it’s harder to see the pain the sun enacts.
“Come on guys,” one of the three yells, clapping her hands to get everyone’s attention. “We can do this! Water break in 15 minutes.”
The other girls get up with minimal groaning, impressed and awed by the exuberance the tired girl still manages to convey.
Any guesses of what that scene was? I’ll give you a hint, you see replicas of it all over your school: It was tennis captains’ practice. Those before season warm ups that are student led and run and, in the state of Minnesota, are also likely to give you a sunburn and a new appreciation for the snow. The girl cheering on her downtrodden and weakened teammates was one of my fellow captains Maggie. And it wasn’t just her. Jenn and I, the other two senior captains, had also been working tirelessly throughout practice to help our teammates have fun, improve, and stay positive. When all you want to do is join the people who gave up and are laying in the shade pouring their water bottles over their heads, it is a very difficult job to stand in the center of the courts, baking in the sun, and call out encouragements. But it’s just part of being captain.
For many, it’s hard to see how much captains do for a sports team. Of course, there is the obvious jobs–leading practices, running workouts, and often being the go between for the couch and the players. But there is so much more work than that that goes on behind the scenes, that the captains’ teammates enjoy the benefits from, but almost never recognize as it occurs.
One example, is attitude. In the example above, the captains were acting like the sun didn’t faze them. They were acting, keyword acting, like they were excited about working out and dripping sweat. To teammates, especially underclassmen teammates who are not close personally with the captains, it may seem like the captains are some sort of superheroes. However, a peek into the brain of those fearless leaders would expose the same levels of stress and weather related annoyances that everyone faces. But constant attempts to bolster team spirit and morale is an integral part of leadership, it’s a lot of work, and no one usually notices.
Another example of hidden work that captains invest in their teams is all of the events the players attend–i.e. the banquets, sleepovers, pizza parties, captains practices, Dairy Queen runs, making shirts, etc. For the player, it’s easy to assume coaches and parents do the grunt work, and the captains are just having fun partying. And while adults are essential to the planning and executing of each of these events, the captains also put in extra hours, choosing their team over homework and sleep. There is a lesson in economics that nothing is free, a principle captains illustrate time and time again. We may not always be paying in money for these events, but we are always paying in the loss of free time, and in extra worry and stress.
Being a captain is a lot of fun. You get the unique opportunity to experience leading a group of people at a young age, as well as learning about responsibility. You also get the chance to dedicate more time to a sport, or other activity, that you feel passionate about. But sometimes the hours get long, and the sleeping time gets short, and it seems like no one on your team notices. However, if you are a captain, hang in there! In the end, all the work you put in will be worth it. And if you are a member of an activity where there is a captain, send a little love their way. They work hard for you, and a tiny bit of appreciation can go a long way.