T-Birds’ captains proving effective as leaders
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Being a team captain comes with a lot of responsibility, even at the AAA youth level.
This season, the Colorado Thunderbirds have a dynamic group of players wearing the “C” for their respective teams: Jacob Tinker and Blake Terry (18U); Keegan Mantaro and Cal Foote (16U National); Matteo Glennon (16U American); Bryan Lockner (14U); Xander Sakadinsky (13U); and Luke Clarke (12U). There are no captains with the 11U squad.
Tinker and Terry both say captaining the highest level of AAA hockey is an honor and a privilege – and a responsibility they don’t take lightly.
“For me, it means making sure everyone is on the same page with what our coaches are asking of us as players,” Tinker said. “Being a leader is something that comes naturally to me, so holding guys accountable is something I’m comfortable doing.
“I always set out to lead by example, as well as be a vocal leader in the locker room. Being a captain is something I’m very proud of and something I take very seriously.”
Terry says the job extends far beyond the rink, making sure his team is well represented on the road at tournaments and in the local community.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I was told by my teachers that I lead by example, so I consider myself a quiet leader,” he said. “I feel like I’ve earned my teammates’ respect.
“This is a great organization that allows us room to grow while providing us with advice and encouragement along the way. Leadership comes with being given the tools you need to succeed and with somebody always in your corner, and that’s what the T-Birds have given me.”
Mantaro says he’s building on the leadership skills he’s developed in recent years.
“In the past, I’ve tried to be more vocal and represent our team in a positive way by setting examples, and I still stick to that same philosophy – uplifting my teammates’ spirits and trying to remain positive all the time.
“I always looked up to (former Detroit Red Wings captain) Nicklas Lidstrom; I liked how he played the game with intelligence and how he made other people around him better. Also, off the ice, he was a great leader and a great example of what a captain should be.”
Glennon says his hard work has earned the appreciation of his coaches.
“Now that I’m captain, nothing has really changed except that you have more eyes on you all the time,” said Glennon. “To improve my leadership skills, I have to learn to decide whether to listen to what my teammates think or what I think is best for the team.”
Lockner also leans on his work ethic as a source of leadership.
“I’m a quiet leader and I like to lead by example by working hard and doing things the right way,” he said. “I always try to be the hardest-working player, both on and off the ice, so others will follow.”
Sakadinsky says being called upon as a leader helps him elevate his own game.
“I like that the responsibilities and expectations of myself are raised (as captain),” said Sakadinsky. “I like how it pushes me to do my best work and be the best teammate I can be.”
Clarke, the youngest of the Thunderbirds’ captains, added that the organization itself has helped him become leader material.
“Being captain this year makes me want to do it again next year,” said Clarke. “I want to keep working on my leadership skills by having a good attitude and being a good role model and teammate. I want keep working as hard as I can, no matter what the situation presents.”
– Matt Mackinder