As a society, consciously or unconsciously, we look for leaders. In sports, you look for the captain’s band and make snap judgments about a team based on the individual who’s wearing it. The captain carries a certain intangible weight that means something, even if fans of professional teams squabble over whether or not that honor was deserved, or were they too young, or does someone do more behind the scenes? Agree, disagree, or claim to not pay attention to leadership drama, the captain’s band stands out and the captain is the team’s answer to the question of leadership.
For Boston College men’s soccer, the answer is Amos Shapiro-Thompson, Tyshawn Rose, and Walker Davey.
Sitting in the study lounge, there’s an intensity to Shapiro-Thompson that simmers in everything he does. But that intensity is uncomfortable talking about himself, preferring to speak about anything else. He can talk for two minutes straight about his hero (his mom) but it takes the same amount of time to get him to explain his own leadership style. There are two Shapiro-Thompson’s in the interview—the captain and the soccer player—and the tension between the two is palpable.
Early in the interview, Shapiro-Thompson defines the role of the captain as helping “to create an environment that’s conducive to winning and a good experience.” When pressed about what comes first, winning or a good experience, you can see the player versus captain tension play out on Shapiro-Thompson’s face. He pauses. Gives a dry chuckle at the question. Then settles on “No. No, but they’re connected.” Another pause, longer this time. “Experience first. For sure.” There’s no room for argument.
“I always want to be someone who people can look to as one of the hardest working people,” Shapiro-Thompson declares. His leadership style focuses on a growth mindset, always wanting to improve on and off the field. He also admits, “I think I’m pretty vocal as far as talking in the locker room and trying to motivate and really get people together.” He leads the team talks, but also tries to find a balance and check in with people. The captainship is just an armband, “your responsibility is to lead by example.”
Rose slides into the booth after a film session and before the end of his first answer, it’s abundantly clear that the graduate student prefers to lead by example rather than have to answer questions on leadership. He too has an intensity, but it’s quieter than Shapiro-Thompson’s, expressed less in energy and more in a quiet dedication behind every word. How Rose plays bleeds into how he speaks: careful on the ball and deliberate with answers, intentional in everything.
Leading by example isn’t just how Rose describes himself. When asked for an example of leadership, Augustine Boadi immediately thought of action. “He’s more of a doer!” the freshman wrote before giving an example. Rose would schedule a particular class (for example the freshmen) to be on equipment duty for the week and then “you would see him picking up cones, bands or ball bags. And he would do the same after practice.” The senior “says less or nothing at all” but “gets things done,” leaving an impression on Boadi and others on the team.
“I’m a laid-back person,” Rose professes nonchalantly. Leadership for him involves showing players what it takes to be “the best version of themselves and try and instill good habits in my teammates.” The captainship is all about “helping the group mentally get on track and be close as friends.” Acknowledging that there are so many personalities on the team and that you can’t agree with all of them is the challenge of the captainship, and one of the reasons Rose prefers to lead by example.
Davey strolls into Addie’s with a big grin and a laugh, immediately settling in to answer questions. A balance between Rose and Shapiro-Thompson, Davey’s intensity shines through almost immediately, in the way that he focuses on organization and balance and in how adamant he is in being so much more than a soccer player. Davey livens up the booth while keeping his answers concise and structured, illustrating the reasons the senior wore the band starting at the midpoint of the season.
Perhaps the clearest example of Davey not wanting to be reduced to one thing comes during the second question in his interview. When asked about his hero, he cites his dad, also a college athlete but at Amherst College. What Davey talks about, though, isn’t the sporting legacy. Instead, he highlighted that his dad “puts his family first” before mentioning he’s “worked hard in his career and gotten very far.” Davey wants to live up to him “one day” and it’s the first hint of how often the senior thinks about the future.
Asked to describe his own leadership style, Davey says, “I’m not someone who’s going to say a bunch on the field, but I hope that my work ethic encourages people to follow me in that sense.” And the captainship doesn’t give him license to “harp on anyone.” Instead, Davey continues to do the little things, like picking up cones, in the hopes that that example will encourage the rest of the team to do the same. Setting that example, listening to teammates about things beyond just soccer, creates “a point of contact” that is “even more heightened in the captain’s role.”
While the captainship might start with personalities, it doesn’t end there. All three captains mention the numerous mundane responsibilities that exist beyond the glamorous, assumed expectations a la giving dramatic speeches in the locker room (though that is Shapiro-Thompson’s specialty according to his teammates.)
Rose mentions the stress that comes with the role, and how there are more responsibilities off the field than on. Team image is something that comes up repeatedly when he’s discussing aspects of the job people don’t think about. Davey seconds the logistical side of the role, mentioning that captains are responsible for equipment duties, travel attire, checking in with coaches, and academic responsibilities. “It’s a semi-administrative role,” Davey admits. Shapiro-Thompson talks about the work the captains put in before the season, in getting the team on the same page before the season starts, and organizing summer work to keep everyone accountable.
Of course, balancing those off and on the field, hidden responsibilities also includes balancing the personalities of a 32-man roster. Not an easy task when each of those players has a different definition of leadership and different expectations for the captains.
Diego Ochoa looks for guidance. Boadi looks for someone who not only leads by example but “becomes the example.” Adrian Zenko looks for the person he has respect for. Checking the box on meeting the needs of one teammate is only 1/32nd of the needs of the whole team. And in a short season, there isn’t a lot of time to figure out how to be all things to all people all the time.
When it comes to what players need from a leader? The answers get even more diverse.
Zenko articulates the captain’s position as the “line between coach and team.” The captain can take player concerns to the coach in a way that players might not feel comfortable doing one on one. In college especially, players practice for a set time each day, but “are a soccer team 24/7,” as Zenko notes. That means on and off the field, a captain’s responsibility doesn’t end when the vans roll back up to Conte. “Here is actually more challenging to be captain,” Zenko argues, because captains also have to convince the team of the importance of time management, of sleeping, and eating right—all things college kids struggle with before being D1 athletes.
Rose agrees about the role of the captain is the role of mediator. “If the players have an issue with something, and I think it's valid, I’m comfortable enough to say those things to the coaches.” And he’s quick to point out that this goes the reverse too, coaches can pass information through the captain, and Rose (and the other captains) will disseminate.
Ochoa pointed out that with the season “being so short and games coming fast, it is important to have guys that are able to address the group and let us know when it is time to relax, dial in, or understand the importance of every game.” Captains have to manage their own emotions for the good of the team, leading by example by presenting the emotions the team needs. Not easy on its own and not easy to balance with remembering all the small, non-soccer details.
But the complex understandings of how the captain should be (and the complex mechanisms behind how and when captains are chosen), allowing Rose, Davey, and Shapiro-Thompson to bring their own experiences to the role. In other words, Davey’s insistence on never being one thing pays off. To lead effectively, there has to be a difference in backgrounds, styles, and experiences. An easy way to look at how this dynamic plays out between the three is to look at how their majors impact how they lead.
As a grad student, Rose is studying Leadership and Administration at Woods College, focusing on executive leadership. Having been captain in the spring, Rose is in the unique position of already having experience in the role, before beginning his program. Still, the grad student can see the benefits. “It gives me more reassurance of if I’m doing something correctly,” he admits, confident in his leadership.
Shapiro-Thompson is an English major who laughs when asked if he has a concentration. He notes his favorite book (Fragrant Palm Leaves) before shrugging about how much English has helped him in the captain’s role. He leads with “to an extent,” before launching into “learning about how different people chose to live and speak and operate…” He summarizes his own point with a laugh: “lots of bad and good examples in literature.”
Davey studies Finance and Business Analytics and launches right into how group projects have helped to teach him the art of delegation. Those group projects have also taught him facilitation skills, though he admits that it’s also taught him that he has the habit of “taking on the brunt of the load.” The collaborative Carroll School of Management projects helped to prepare Davey to be handed a captain’s band at the midpoint of the season, stepping into and reorganizing what had been a duo.
As a trio, all three captains agreed that the success of the team mattered more than any personal success, though each kept their own standards for the season in the back of their minds. An away ACC win the Sweet 16, winning the tournament—personal ambitions for the good of the team. More than anything, all three captains wanted to pull the team forward, to help, in any way possible, create wins. Each of them, in their own way, were already focused on legacy and leaving the culture surrounding the program in a better place than when they started.
“Oh Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done” wrote Walt Whitman at the end of the Civil War to honor Abraham Lincoln. For Davey, Rose, and Shapiro-Thompson the “ship” is indeed at “port” and everything’s been said and done. The season is over and for these three in particular this is the end of the BC line, please exit via a “soft goodbye” of a spring season and make sure to leave something that looks like a legacy. Yet, in a more realistic sense, this is only the start of a future hinted at throughout each of the three interviews. There was the team and the responsibilities of the now one game at a time wrapped up in a hesitant discussion of the future and a hint at what legacy meant—and now it’s time for those ideas to take center stage. “Oh, Captain! my Captain!” the journey’s just begun.
Thank you to Walker Davey, Tyshawn Rose, and Amos Shapiro-Thompson for their time in the midst of a busy season, as well as their thoughtfulness and honesty.
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