Leaders growing into leaders

  • By Klas Stolpe
  • Friday, September 25, 2015 1:08am
  • Sports

For the Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain high school swim programs, their history is measured not just by the wins and personal best times but also by the personal improvements.

That improvement is lead by the individuals chosen by coaches and team members to lead their morning practices, makes sure homework is done and mirrors the values expected along school hallways and in the world outside.

“It is a great honor of course but it is a great opportunity to show leadership and be someone that anyone on our team can talk to about anything,” JDHS senior captain Sophia Kaelke said. “Whether it is school or swim or any problems they are having. It is great to be there for our team. Approachability is the big thing. Just being able to go up and talk to someone about anything that you need help with. Setting a good example, whether it is in the pool or out of the pool, for your teammates.”

Kaelke has been swimming for nine years. Junior captain Eric Schumacher has been swimming for four years.

“It is a lot about making sure you are a good leader,” Schumacher said. “It is a lot about inspiring the younger swimmers to do well in and out of the pool, make sure their grades are doing well and also that they can fulfill their goals for the season. It is a big deal to be able to interact with the younger swimmers, because a lot of the time they will be scared of an older swimmer.”

Schumacher said he was not afraid of any older swimmers.

“I just did not know them,” Schumacher said. “I wasn’t to keen on approaching them but my freshman year the boy’s team captain (Dakota Scranton) became a good friend of mine and that really made an impression on me as to how important that was to be able to approach a captain and talk to them about the things that were affecting you.”

Kaelke said captains were important when she was very little in the Glacier Swim Club program.

“When I first joined swimming, we would have swim buddies,” Kaelke said. “Everyone seemed so much older than you and we really wouldn’t know what their name was or who they were, so just not knowing them was scary. But they became our buddies and it was very soothing; now I am an older buddy to young swimmers, too.”

In a sense, swim captains learn to be leaders. They are not the boss, yet are more than the title. They shoulder responsibilities and communicate with the team, often being the liaison between the coach and swim squad. They also set up team bonding activities and are an example about what JDHS and TMHS mean to the community.

“It is kind of difficult but at the same time it is being a leader to my family,” TMHS senior captain Taylor Beardslee said. “It is kind of hard filling some of the bigger shoes from the past but it means a lot to me. We are all captains together too, because I have been swimming with these guys for as long as I can remember.”

Beardslee has swam for 12 years.

“Past captains have taught me how to deal with stuff outside swimming,” Beardslee said. “With my life and school, if I had issues in the past I could always go to them and ask them about life in general. I just wanted to carry that on with the rest of the team as well.”

TMHS senior captain Naomi Ferster has been swimming for six years, two in Sitka.

“It is a really great experience because I used to live in Sitka,” Ferster said. “I wasn’t always around with Glacier Swim Club and so being selected means a lot. I don’t know all these swimmers super well but now that I have been swimming here for four years, it is like I have been accepted as part of the team and now I get to lead them and show them what I know.”

Ferster said past captains have been instrumental in showing her what not to do and what to do as far as being not just a swimmer but also a high school student.

“They have taught me lessons about life in general,” Ferster said. “Like applying for colleges and simple things like that.”

Falcons senior captain Dylan Allio has swam for 13 years. Because he is deaf a specialist in sign language accompanies the team at practice and meets on his behalf.

“Sometimes I feel like I need to match up with the team captains from previous years,” Allio said through an interpreter. “But most of the time I just leave the team captain duties to these two (he points at Beardslee and Ferster), because these two take control better than I do.”

Allio is an inspiration, not in a vocal leadership, but in dedication to the sport and the team.

“I like that I can give some ideas for team activities,” he said.

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