by Grace Fiorella, Staff Writer, March 2021
Officially one year into the pandemic, all sports teams have now had a “COVID season.” Important championships, team rituals, and games have all been impacted by safety protocols and hybrid schedules.
One critical part of every season is the election of captains. Every team has their own way of electing captains, but in these unprecedented times, nearly all processes have been altered in some way. Some believe the captain election process has changed, while others believe it has remained the same. These views vary between sport and season.
Consider last spring: most tryouts were stopped before completion, and without a full season, teams were not completely formed. Normally, coaches decide to hold the elections for captains at the end of the season. However, due to the compromised spring, many coaches postponed the elections. “I do think the captain election process is different this year because of COVID… usually by this time last spring we would have already decided the lacrosse captains, but we never had a season, so we are going into the season without captains,” Cole Van Meter (Class I), a member of Boys Varsity Lacrosse, said.
Last year, the very end of the winter season was affected by COVID, too. This caused many coaches to delay the election of captains. “Has COVID changed elections? Definitely,” Brooke Manning (Class III), a member of Girls Varsity Hockey, said. She added, “We didn’t even get the chance to select our captains this year which was pretty upsetting, but I think that the coaches made a good choice with choosing [all the] seniors to be captains.”
However, some Class I students were disappointed and upset by the lack of an official election for captains. “For hockey, we didn’t even vote, and the coaches gave captain to all five of us seniors,” Taylor Hyland (Class I), co-captain of Girls Varsity Hockey, said. Hyland added, “We didn’t know that this would happen. We learned over a Zoom call, which is also different than it normally is. It was a surprise to me, because I feel like being captain is always a very coveted position, especially for our team, and everyone puts a lot of thought into who they want to vote for and why.” The change in the election of captains came as a surprise to Hyland. “The long [election] process was eliminated, which was very confusing for me. It seems by doing this, the position is invalidated by giving it to every senior,” Hyland said.
This year, fall season athletes also felt like the process changed because of the hybrid schedule. With Class IV on campus earlier in the week and Classes III-I on Thursday and Friday, it made it difficult for freshmen to know and understand rising seniors’ personalities and leadership styles.
“I think the captain’s process definitely has changed, especially since the entire team is not on campus and at practices at the same time,” Molly Epker (Class II) said. Epker added, “With varsity teams having freshmen come on Monday and Tuesdays, the freshmen don’t get to know everyone as well. With social distancing, the team is not as close and kids don’t know the rising seniors and how they would lead, so it’s harder to choose.” Epker explained that in Girls Cross Country, instead of just a vote for captains like in previous years, aspiring captains had to write speeches so everyone on the team could understand their leadership style better.
Other students noticed an increase in the number of captains due to the irregular season. “I think that when a team doesn’t have a full season, you can’t have people emerge as full leaders, so the coaches and players decide to give the captaincy to a bunch of seniors instead of one or two leaders,” said Lindsay Popeo (Class II), who runs cross country and plays on the Girls Varsity Tennis team. Popeo followed up: “It affects a lot of seniors who have put years of effort into the team.”
Despite athletes noticing a change in the election process, the Athletic Department has asked coaches to keep the captain election process the same. “I don’t think the main process was different this year. All the athletic coaches have been asked to stick with the Athletic Department policy of sticking with a few pieces, like kids nominating themselves, the nominated athletes writing and giving their speeches to the team, and when the team votes, they must give a reason why they vote for that person,” said Joanna Hallac, Head Girls Varsity Soccer Coach.
Julia Simon (Class II) spoke about her experience on Girls Varsity Soccer. “I think we’ve done a good job sticking to the same procedure that we always have, with speeches before voting… I think it’s a good system,” Simon said.
Another interesting change to the election process comes from the increased presence of virtual events brought on by COVID-19. Many captain elections were moved online. “The biggest difference was pushing [the election] back later in the year. Otherwise, we went through the same process as we always do, with the exception that it was done online. The kids gave their statements and discussed why they wanted to be captains via Zoom. I then asked our players to email me who they wanted to vote for and why they wanted to vote for them,” Brian Day, Head Boys Varsity Hockey Coach, said.
The election process can depend on the coach and what they think is best for the team. “It depends on the sport. Football was affected by COVID because we have not voted for captains for next year yet,” Jake Bollin (Class II), who plays Varsity Football and Baseball said. He added, “Even though we didn’t have a season for baseball, we pretty much knew who the leaders were going to be, so it didn’t change too much. This year, captains did a speech over Zoom, and we also invited the kids who went to college this year to come back and vote too.”
Students will see the lasting effects of COVID-19 seasons on their sports teams in many ways – captain elections are no exception. In upcoming years, athletes will watch to see whether coaches that have changed captains elections will go back to the norm, or continue with new methods.