Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

The Story of Harvard Lacrosse Captains

Our Role: 

We are honored to be in the position that we are—Captains—and to have the humbling experience of turning a new page for Harvard Lacrosse, rewriting the past and forging a more successful future going forward. We were elected Captains in May 2018, after the conclusion of our junior seasons. We serve our team alongside one other Captain, Marley Jenkins. Since being elected Captains by our teammates, it has been our duty to serve our teammates to the best of our abilities and to lead our team through the athletic, academic, and mental endeavors we face as members of a Division I Varsity Lacrosse program. We serve as liaisons between our coaches and team, we work to resolve conflicts, we handle operational responsibilities, and we work to provide guidance in all facets of our teammate's lives. From doing extra shooting after practice to constantly checking in on teammates' well-being, we pride ourselves on building strong relationships on and off the filed while simultaneously engraining and encouraging a championship mentality in each and every one of our teammates. 

To succeed at instilling this mentality, it is important that we set clear expectations and standards for the team and that we foster trust-based relationships with and amongst our teammates. Our role has taught us the importance of empathy, accountability, and flexibility. As leaders, we have learned that there is no one-size fit all strategy when it comes to “getting through to someone” or empowering our teammates. We have been faced with the unique task of reading people, observing behaviors, and learning about how our teammates operate. By empathizing and bonding with our individual teammates, we are able to take their strengths and harness them for the greater good of the group. In addition to fostering relationships and encouraging a cohesive culture, we manage other administrative and operational tasks. In sports, you often hear coaches preach, “Little things make big things happen.” This does not necessarily have to mean the little things that happen on the field during a game. This includes being organized, being on time, having all the proper equipment, being focused in the weight room, and so on.  Mental focus and organization in these areas undoubtedly translates into performance and outcome. Additionally, other administrative tasks include being a source of communication between the coaches and the team. This requires transparency and unbiased processing and decision-making.

Our Goals and the Challenges We Face: 

As we reflect on the last four years of our athletic journeys here at Harvard University, we feel grateful for the people we have met and the opportunities we have encountered; yet, we continue to feel mildly disappointed in the culture and trajectory of our lacrosse program.
As a Division I Lacrosse program, our ultimate aspiration is winning a National Championship. With this goal in mind, our primary focus is cultivating a championship culture and building an atmosphere in which our teammates feel supported, needed, inspired, and motivated to reach their full potential. 

As with every leadership role, there will be challenges. In our role as Captain, we often find that one of the greatest challenges we struggle with is how to get people to have the “buy-in mentality.” We think this challenge is particularly robust for us because since joining the program 4 years ago, the coaching staff has changed every year. In our time, we have had coaches that have created tumultuous team environments. Because the coaches are ultimately the highest position of power, the way they lead and the atmosphere they create are extremely important. Unfortunately, our previous coaches have failed to create trust-based relationships with the women on the team that they serve. This failure created a culture of distrust and a culture in which people did not feel inspired, motivated, or empowered to achieve championship status. Thus, one of the biggest challenges for us as Captains this year has been figuring out how to rewrite team culture. We are incredibly lucky to have gotten a new coaching staff this year that support our endeavor and have helped us make incredible strides towards achieving our goal of recreating this culture. We have the challenge of taking a team full of women, who are quite honestly disappointed, unmotivated, and mentally checked-out and encouraging them start to believing again – make them start remembering why they chose and dreamt of playing lacrosse at Harvard in the first place. As this process begins to unfold, our hope is that our teammates will have a better “buy in mentality,” and they will begin to see that all the conditioning, lifting, and practicing we do matters and will translate into a game and bring us closer to our ultimate goal of winning championships.

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