Varsity sports depend on senior leadership

Coach, athletics director provide their perspective


Bella Leous

Members of the men’s varsity soccer team gather on the pitch during Senior Night just before the match against Roncalli. The starting line-up was all seniors, and 15 players were members of the Class of 2019. Senior leadership was not a problem for Head Coach Mr. Whitey Kapsalis.

Zach Gregor, Reporter

A sports team is nothing without its leaders. In order to win games and climb the playoff bracket to the championship, a team must have strong leaders to guide it to victory.

Without established leaders, a team may remain divided and not come together.

In high school seniors typically take the leadership roles on a team. Athletics Director and former Head Football Coach Mr. Rick Streiff said, “It’s the seniors’ team. When I was coaching I would always say it’s their team, it’s what they want it to be, it’s their legacy that they are leaving behind. It’s key for them to take ownership and take their role on the team.”

Because senior leaders are so important to the framework of a high school team, it can be devastating not to have them.

Streiff said, “It’s very difficult for a team to be successful without senior leaders. You are going to have to have a really strong Junior Class. You have to have some sort of leadership on the team somewhere. It’s best for the seniors because obviously they’ve been there, they’ve done that, they know the expectations, but sometimes you have a Senior Class that isn’t able to do that, and if you got a strong Junior Class that people are willing to rally around than you can get things done.”

Football offensive coordinator and English teacher Mr. Nick Lyons ‘04 shares a similar opinion. When asked if a team has a shot of being successful if they do not have strong senior leaders he responded with a firm “no.” Lyons went on to say, “Even if you have strong underclassmen and they are extremely gifted or talented but you don’t have strong senior leaders to guide and push your team in the right direction, you will never be successful.”

Being a senior is no easy feat. It takes character, dedication and hard work. Streiff said, “(A senior leader) is someone who thinks of the team first. It’s someone who puts their buddy next to them and ahead of themselves. It’s someone who is willing to use the phrase walk the walk and talk the talk, but you (have to) walk the walk before you talk the talk. If you (have) got someone who does that and has empathy for the other guys on the team but still has the ability to say what they think and people respect that, then you got a chance to have one good leader.”

Junior lacrosse player Mark Saba gave his take on what he thinks a senior leader should be. Saba said, “A team needs senior leaders; they need to be willing to fire up their teammates in the hardest moments imaginable. No matter what the score of the game is, a leader should be able to keep his head in the game and inspire his fellow teammates to stay strong.”

Lyons elaborated on the importance of senior leaders in any team sport. He said, “The way the seniors go the team goes, because whether the seniors realize it or not, the majority of the team is going to follow and do what they do, good or bad. Naturally by age they are the oldest, they are generally the most experienced, so naturally being the veterans on the team others will do what they do. They naturally have the most influence on the team.”

Lyons provided a time a senior showed his leadership. Lyons said, “There was one time the defense was having a bad practice, and Kendall Coleman (‘16) who now plays (defensive end) at Syracuse, he decided to get vocal.” Lyons then said, “He straight turned to the offense and commanded their attention. Everyone was silent after he spoke, even the coaches.”

Coach Lyons finished by saying, “Good leaders are vocal. That is a characteristic leaders have to have. A leader must be moral and have influence. Leadership at the base is influence. The best leaders will lead from behind. If your organization is a pyramid, they will take the people at the bottom and they will flip it. They will recognize value in the base of the organization.”