After the 2017-2018 boys’ swim and dive team captain Liam Stanley graduated, senior Connor Jokerst stepped into the position. Jokerst admired and respected Stanley’s team spirit, his pride in the school and his desire for consistent progress as a team.
While Jokerst said the 2018-2019 season is his third competing at state and his second scoring points for the team, he remains humble about his role as team captain because of his personal connection with many of his teammates. As a leader in the program, Jokerst enjoys pushing himself and others to surpass their own expectations.
“I want to see how far I can get, how much faster I can get, see where we can place as a team even though we’ve lost a good margin of fast swimmers,” Jokerst said. “I just want to see if we can still be a driving force that shouldn’t be underrated.”
Like Stanley before him, Jokerst said he has the mindset that he needs to push them to improve, so they will have a chance of earning another state title.
Football, much like boys’ swim and dive, relies on senior leaders to step up each year and push the team at practices and during games. While senior Mason Boussad said he is not the most vocal athlete on the field, he works to be a silent leader people can respect and follow.
“I think a leader is a person that isn’t necessarily the loudest guy out there,” Boussad said. “But he’s someone that people can look up to to know that he’s going to do the right thing.”
Each year the football team’s goal is to win the state championship, Boussad said, so it is the responsibility of the various leaders and coaches to unify players as a family to build a cohesive team and program.
“Everyone else is getting better, and every day that we come to practice, and we come to running [practice], and we don’t get better we’re not getting worse, but everyone else is getting better,” Boussad said. “So it’s kind of like we’re sinking back in a race basically. And so I feel like we use that energy and that mentality to keep pushing ourselves whenever we’re faced with adversity.”
After breaking his foot in the team’s first game of the season against Rockhurst, senior football player Kyjuan Collins could miss anywhere from six weeks of play up to the entire season. Since Collins’ position is a pivotal role in the defense, Boussad said seniors have to encourage and believe in younger players to step up and play positions reserved for more experienced team members. Similarly, during his own sophomore year, Boussad said another player got hurt, requiring Boussad to start for the Bruins, an easy transition because of the support he received from senior players.
As a positive coaching school, RBHS players and coaches promote hard work and demand effort without breaking athletes down to achieve their goals. Before becoming RBHS’ head softball coach nine years ago, Janel Twehous worked as an assistant coach at HHS for 11 years.
Around the start of her career, Twehous said the work ethic of her players resembled a “hardnose, get down, get dirty, take that chewing and move forward” attitude. Now, however, she said her aspiration is to focus more this season on “getting to know every single athlete on an individual basis.” Twehous wants to push her athletes in a positive way so they are able to achieve their goals.
“You don’t tear an athlete down anymore at all. You can’t,” Twehous said. “That’s just not something you do.”
Twehous said teams need to have a player who can “step up and be a leader, who can get mad and hold her ground,” to be successful.
“I don’t care what type of athlete [you are],” Twehous said. “You could be the best athlete out there. If you don’t have a good attitude and you’re not coachable then you’re going to struggle to go on and play [after high school].”
Although there is little ceremony surrounding becoming a team captain, Jokerst said he did receive the “Legacy Parka,” an old parka passed down from one season to the next and worn at meets. While he takes his role seriously and expects his teammates to work hard, he still makes sure there is time to blow off steam during practices.
“We goof around a lot. We pride ourselves on having fun at practice and making sure that we get better but also have a lot of fun while doing it,” Jokerst said. “Myself as a leader, and others, know where that line is between when it’s time to go for practice and get the work done and also when it’s time to goof off and have fun.”
It’s the responsibility of upperclass leaders to walk the line between work and play while setting examples for their underclass teammates who will take over as leaders in their respective programs. While the freshman and JV football game against Rockhurst Monday, Aug. 27 was going on, senior players, as well as a few juniors, were left to do conditioning after watching game tapes at practice.
“Of course we were messing around for a little bit,” Boussad said. “But I feel like [senior team captains] Nate [Peat] and Martez [Manuel] really got us back in line to get done [with] what we had to do.”
For Twehous, the legacy of her program is to be both a winning program and a family that can come together to work and support each other as a team. Having a leader who can balance hard work with team building is vital for the success of any team.
“Every single team has to have an athlete that is a leader on the team for them to be a great team. If you don’t have an athlete or athletes that step up and play that role, there’s no room for greatness for your team,” Twehous said. “A coach can only do so much.”
What kind of qualities do you believe a team captain needs? Let us know in the comments below.