Junior Julia Washburn, sophomore Lindsay Alvarez, senior Janelle High, senior Kassidy Green and junior Jackie Renda stand together before practice on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. Two out of these five field hockey players that made up the team's leadership council will graduate this year. (Gracie Chavers/B&W Staff)

Fresh perspective, new leadership guide field hockey

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There are no captains on the Lehigh field hockey team this year.

Since its 5-13 record last fall, the team has implemented a great deal of change into its program.

The team was hopeful new head coach Caitlin Dallmeyer would help it generate the kind of results the team knew it was capable of. One of Dallmeyer’s changes was implementing a leadership council instead of a group of captains.

When Dallmeyer arrived last spring, she quickly established herself and what she expected of the team. Junior midfielder Jackie Renda said the team thought this was strange at first, but they knew Dallmeyer would decide what was best for the team and its leadership system once she got to know the players and team dynamic more.

“We were frustrated because we knew our team had a lot of talent, but it wasn’t being translated onto the field,” Renda said. “Our team saw that she took the Dickinson team from being a losing program to making them so much better within three years, so our team hoped she could do the same thing with us.”

But what the girls didn’t realize was that Dallmeyer didn’t want captains at all.

“At Dickinson, I quickly realized it wasn’t necessarily the best philosophy because the idea of having captains gives a lot of power and often insinuates more of a dictatorship instead of the democracy we are trying to create,” Dallmeyer said.

Instead, she found that a leadership council was much more effective. She proposed the change to the team after its first game last spring. Her only stipulations were that the team had to vote the players in and that each class needed to be represented.

“I had never heard of a leadership council as opposed to captains, but the way coach pitched it was super convincing,” junior defender Julia Washburn said. “I was excited because we are starting kind of fresh with our new coach, so it was good to have a complete overhaul of our routine and what we knew.”

Once everyone was on board, the entire team was given a sheet of paper with 25 different behaviors and criteria. Next to each behavior, each player was asked to name who they thought practiced or exemplified those behaviors. The names that popped up the most on each sheet were considered the top five leaders on the team.

Dallmeyer said it was clear by the amount of votes that seniors Kassidy Green and Janelle High, juniors Washburn and Renda and sophomore Lindsay Alvarez received that they were the players that their teammates wanted in the leadership council.

“It is an interesting mix,” Dallmeyer said.

The council consists of a few players that have the ability to command an audience and get important points across, while there are also players that take a backseat and do a lot of work behind the scenes, which is exactly what Dallmeyer wanted from the leadership council.

Dallmeyer said by having a balance of personalities leading the team, it makes it more comfortable for teammates to talk to a leader about any concerns or issues. More importantly, it helps bridge and develop a more honest communication line between the team and Dallmeyer.

Since the vote, these five players have been meeting weekly with their coaching staff. During this time, they make sure the coach’s expectations for the players are being communicated to the team, as well as discuss any issues that the players are noticing on or off the field with teammates.

“Each person on the council is close with different individuals,” High said. “So it’s good to have so many different representatives because we can help voice what those players need to our new coach, who doesn’t necessarily know the different personalities on the team as well as we do.”

Washburn says the change is already noticeable.

“Unity is something we have really been harping on with the team,” Dallymeyer said. “I think the idea that everyone has a voice and everyone can be heard through the leadership council really has helped bring the team together.”

But this small change is just the start of how the team will evolve in future years because of the leadership council and Dallmeyer’s vision for the team.

“I have no doubt that our team will be ranked in the top 25 within the next four years,” High said. “While I may not be playing here when that happens, it is still cool to be a part of the initial change.”

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