Stuart Weir continues to write for us this weekend on the British team, and his insights into that fine group of athletes. We sometimes do need a translator, as someone much brighter than me noted that U.S. and GBR are quite close, except, at times, we are separated by lanuage.
Andrew Pozzi and Shelayna Oskan-Clarke have been appointed joint captains of the GB team at the World Indoor Championships. So what? I will begin with a reflection on captaincy and then write in praise of Shelayna who just happens to be one of my favorite athletes. Being captain of your country is a great honor. But as George Orwell didn’t quite write, all captains are equal but some are more equal than others.
In soccer and rugby the captain is an on field leader, an inspirer of others. Captains serve often for several years. The great Manchester United head coach, Alex Ferguson used to refer to his captain as his representative in the locker room, the one who enforces his will, so to speak.
In cricket it is quite different when players are on the field for 6 hours a day in two hour slots and the captain is the strategist, arranging the fielding, deciding which of his bowlers (pitchers) to use in which order and how much to attack and how much to defend. There are examples of cricket captains, who were not worth their place in the team on cricketing ability, being selected for their leadership and tactical ability.
An athletics captain makes a speech at a team meeting and little else. Rather than being selected by the coach, the captain is appointed after a vote of the athletes. It is a one-off appointment, with a new captain next time.
Shelayna said of her appointment: “I wasn’t expecting to be made captain. It’s really nice. It’s an honor to think that my team mates think highly of me and that they see me as a role model in some way. Over the past years I think I’ve shown that I can be a good role model and I hope I can lead them well here. You need to lead by example in terms of things you are telling your team to do. Portray confidence, go out and give it my all, leave the track with no regrets. Be positive, be confident and be there for them if they need you. Not just this week but throughout the season.
“My speech [to the team] will be about success and what we think success is and the importance of going out and giving your all”.