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Leaders Emerge: Selecting captains not always the best decision

by James Fisher Staff Writer

The head coach of the Rochester University’s men’s basketball team, Dr. Klint Pleasant, does not believe in selecting captains for his team.

“I think leadership becomes apparent over time, and leadership emerges over time,” Pleasant said. While recognizing some organizations need appointed captains, Pleasant does not believe handpicking captains for his basketball team is an effective means to obtain the best mode of leadership.

Rather, Pleasant trusts that necessary leadership comes from within the team, leaving open the possibility for anyone to take charge as a mutually respected leader.

“If you go with emerging leaders, there is always possibility there, instead of assigning a leader and closing the door on you. Every day is a new day when it comes to leadership on our team,” Pleasant said.

Pleasant does not think seniors necessarily have to be the team's leaders. Through this, Pleasant recognizes another perk of not selecting captains, especially at the beginning of the season.

“Part of this is you get 20 guys together and you figure it out together. You don’t do that on day one. It’s a process,” Pleasant said.

This allows young leaders to emerge and seize their opportunities without being barred by predetermined captains. Pleasant said, “Labels are for jars, not people.”

When James Ballard Jr, a senior forward on the basketball team, was asked if he considered himself a leader on the team, he quickly said, “Everyone should be a leader.” Aligned with Pleasant’s philosophy, the seasoned veteran is not interested in assigned captains.

Dr. Dave Hutson, chair of the RU Department of Sports Management, offered insight into the dilemma. “There are multiple leadership philosophies. That’s why there are thousands of books on leadership – and I’ve read a lot of them,” Hutson said.

As a former coach, Hutson said his leadership philosophy evolved a bit through the years, culminating in an impressive turnaround of the Lake Orion Track & Field women’s team in his last coaching job. “We turned a program that had not won a meet in five years, into a top five team in the state.”

Hutson selected captains for his teams, realizing that leading Track & Field teams is probably a much different thing than basketball. Track & Field involves monitoring more area than a 94- foot hardwood floor. “I would select a captain for each broad event group,” Hutson said.

Hutson said that one of the most important things about leadership is the culture you want to create within the team. This was his greatest determinant in selecting captains. “I want those captains to truly be leaders on the team, not just on the playing field, but in the locker room, on the bus, in the lunch room, in the hotel,” he said.

Pleasant recognized that the tendency for people to look at seniority for leadership could cause tension when a young player looks to emerge naturally toward leadership, while a senior might presume that role simply because of age.

However, Pleasant deciphers that a young player with good leadership skills should be able to overcome that. He said young leaders can find a way to diffuse the tension by not making it a competition with older players.

Pleasant said he thinks this especially requires the young player to lead with humility. “I’ll say it like this. The only way two countries go to war is if they both want to actually fight. If one country doesn’t want to fight, there is no war.”

Pleasant said it is eventually up to the coach to root out the tension between the players if it becomes too much of a problem.

Brandon Michrina, a junior guard, said, “Coach Pleasant is a great leader himself. He demands a certain maturity from the whole team where leaders emerge.” Michrina is in his first year at Rochester University and continually expresses how good of coaches the basketball program has.

Pleasant recommends a book, "Leadership" by Peter Northouse, to discover what characteristics are found in a leader. “That would be like the Bible for leadership,” Pleasant said. The book details several different types of leaders.

Pleasant recently amassed his 300th win as a head coach, so perhaps his leadership philosophy works. “I can’t remember a time where I have been this excited about coaching," he said.



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