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Leading a Team: The Captains' Perspective

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At some point during the spring, the swimmers and divers come together for a meeting. Index cards and pens are handed out and it's time to vote for captains for the remainder of the spring and into following year.


These individuals are selected to step up in any situation and become leaders. They are responsible for coordinating recruiting events, acting as the liaison to communicate between the coaches and swimmers and they are expected to create a positive atmosphere no matter what the circumstances may be.

Teammates and coaches selected senior Amy Modglin and senior Paige Whitmire for the women's team while junior Chris Cipolla and junior James Wilson were chosen for the men's team.

Modglin, who was also a captain last year, has enjoyed the opportunity to be a leader and has grown from the experience.

"From last year, I learned a lot about what makes the team click and which approaches work and which ones don't," Modglin said. "I've been constantly learning from others and trying to improve in any way that I can."

Even though there are four people chosen to take on leadership roles, Modglin knows how important it is for everyone to do their part in order for the team to work together.

"Making sure that there are not just four leaders is how we keep unity in the team," Modglin said. "Everyone on the team has their own role and it's important that each person figures out what that means they have to do in order to meet our goals at the end of the year."

Helping Modglin lead the team, Whitmire is a captain for the first time this year and has already made an impact.

"Being selected as a captain this year means a lot to me," Whitmire said. "It was a goal of mine since I became part of this team to be a leader and it means so much to have teammates that think of me in that way. I care a lot about the team and want to do whatever I can to make it better."

Whitmire has also gained more insight into not only what it means to become a leader, but also what it takes to be a captain of the swimmers and divers.

"I've learned a lot since I've been a captain, but one of the biggest things I've learned is everything you do matters," Whitmire said. "From your body language to what you say, you are being watched all the time. You have high expectations and there are no excuses where you can just take a day off. You always have to be positive and working hard."

After learning from past captains, Cipolla felt honored to take on this role as a junior, especially for a program that continues to excel.

"On the papers, we have one of the best classes Penn State swimming has seen yet and it's an honor that I will be able to lead this team," Cipolla said. "I looked up to the captains that we had my freshman and sophomore year and they helped make me the person I am today. Hopefully I will be able to do that for the underclassmen this year."

Welcoming the freshmen and making sure everyone is on the right track is one of the many responsibilities captains are in charge of coordinating. Cipolla and Wilson have made sure that the freshmen have adjusted well and feel comfortable with the team.

"When the freshmen come to town for their FTCAP days, we try to see them and invite them over just to hang out before they're even at school," Cipolla said. "Just about every weekend so far this year we have had some sort of team activity where we get dinner or go to a football game together. We are just as close with the freshmen as we are with our own class."

The common goal that all of these captains hope to achieve is helping out their teammates. Modglin does this through her actions and hopes to inspire underclassmen.

"I believe leading by example is the best way to be a leader," Modglin said. "You can talk all you want, but people will respect you for how you act and they're also more apt to listen to you. I hope to leave footprints for younger swimmers to follow in and guide them to where they want to be. If I could help just one person this year, I would be happy knowing I made a difference."

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