• Behind The Lines: The Academy Football Report

The Three Cs of Leadership

by Graham Knight and Diane Roberts

To date, the most popular YouTube video on the Behind The Lines channel was a profile of the players selected as Captains of their Academy teams: the leaders of future leaders. But, there's a layer to this story we haven't been able to share on this broadcast until now.

Diane Roberts and Graham Knight broke it all down recently in episode of Behind The Lines: Unfiltered. Here is the first of two small excerpts from that episode:

Graham Knight: You did a piece on leadership, and the thing is that in linear broadcast and cable we're limited to a certain amount of time. There was so much more to that leadership piece, and part of what we want to do in this Behind The Lines: Unfiltered is really dig into that. Diane, why don't we do this for anybody who hasn't seen the piece, let me just play it for you now, and we'll be back in about two minutes and we'll really dig into it.

Here's a piece from our first episode:

Leaders Of Leaders: The 2021 Academy Football Team Captains

August 31, 2021

by Diane Roberts

Leadership is nothing new in sports, but at Service Academies, it might take a somewhat different form. After they leave the playing field, these men will go on to be leaders in the military. Leadership is something special, especially for these football team captains.

Army Black Knights' senior linebacker and team co-captain, Arik Smith, describes what it's like to be a leader of a team full of leaders: "We, as captains, we're in charge of holding the standard and pushing the culture of the team and making sure that's upheld, but that's not taking away from any leadership abilities or capabilities of the other people on the team."

That's a common refrain, echoed by team captains at Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard. When you talk to the captains of any of the Service Academy teams, they will tell you any one of the players could be captain.

When your marching orders after college dictate service to country, service on the field is another opportunity to set an example.

"We know our role," says Army co-captain Marquel Broughon. "We all have different personalities and we use that to lead the team." Army co-captain Cedrick Cunningham, Jr., adds: "I think we cater the traits that we all have to the situation, and I think there's never any conflict with it."

Noting that he and the other three Army co-captains, Smith, Broughton, and Nolan Cockril, are all defensive players, Cunningham, Jr. says they have plenty of support from throughout the team. "We lean on other leaders on the team, guys on the offensive side of the ball, other guys on the defense side of the ball, and it's by committee. It's not just one guy."

At Navy, two captains come from each side of the ball, with SB Chance Warren and WR Mychal Cooper on offense and LB Diego Fagot and FS Kevin Brennan on defense. They've developed their leadership skills from those who came before them.

"As a leader, as a captain, I think he embodies what I want to aspire to," Fagot says about Jackson Perkins, the defensive lineman who served as tri-captain of the 2020 Navy team, "because his mentality, the way he attacked every single day with that positive attitude, with checking his baggage at the door, leaving everything behind."

"I'm a fiery leader," Chance Warren, the Mids' senior slotback said in an interview with Behind The Lines. He takes examples from his role model, Malcom Perry, the former Navy standout quarterback who was just claimed off waivers by the New England Patriots, and blends them with his own unique style. ". . . but Malcom [Perry] was very quiet and led by example. So I did take pieces of that and try to take stuff that he showed me, leadership-wise, and try to translate it to the way I lead."

Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo is very impressed with this year's group of team captains. "The thing that I love about these young men, they embody everything that we're looking for here at the Naval Academy," he said to reporters at Navy Media Day in early August. "They're obviously really, really good football players, but they're good people. They're men of integrity and character."

At West Point, Head Coach Jeff Monken is equally happy with the Black Knights' corps of leaders, saying: "I think our players did a really good job of selecting members of our leadership council that will represent them well and do a good job with leadership."

Leading now in football--and later taking the helm as officers--falls on Coast Guard captains Adam Jabril-Barnes, Mason Schroder, Michael Palermo and Damaso Jaime.

As for Air Force, Head Coach Troy Calhoun takes a different approach. He won't announce team captains until later this season. Sometimes the Falcons use "Game Captains" and Calhoun plans to make that announcement on game day.

"Leadership can be an individual responsibility, but a collective one too, and everybody can play a part that way," Calhoun says on the subject. "I like, especially for older guys -- our seniors -- to feel like, 'Hey, here's a way where we can impact the direction of our team,' rather than just saying it's solely three or four guys that can do that."

Sports psychologists Larry Lauer and Kevin Blue say a team captain must be:

CARING: having an undeniable passion for the game, competing and teammates,

COURAGEOUS: willing to step up, "Walk the Walk" and not afraid to compete in the worst of situations, and

CONSISTENT: hold themselves to a standard of giving 100% effort, every practice and game and cannot cut corners.

Those three "Cs" will serve Service Academy football captains well now and -- in defense of our country -- later.

Here now is part two of Behind The Lines: Unfiltered with Graham Knight and Diane Roberts on The Three Cs of being a captain. The conversation picks up with a look at how more traditional colleges approach the role of their captains:

Graham: We want to create a little contrast, because as part of your piece, I ended up interviewing Sean Elliott, the head coach from the Georgia State team: the Panthers. And as part of that, you know, we were just trying to set up kind of what the game was going to be between Army and Georgia State, etc. But in that press conference, I had a chance to ask him what leaders, you know, what does he look for in his captains? And here's what he had to say:

Sean Elliott, Georgia State Head Coach: Well, I think you go out and recruit leaders. I think during the recruiting aspect of it you gotta find individuals that have been captains of their football team, that have done things right in the weight room, that are solid in the classroom. You need to go out and recruit leaders just like you need the 4.4 tailback. I mean, you've got to do that.

And we've made a point of going through our roster and pinpointing guys that have been captains on their high school teams, guys that have won at a high level on their teams. And I think, you know, if I have to go around here all the time and trying to build leadership, build leadership, build leadership then I'm spinning my wheels. Let's go recruit leadership and let me teach them how to play the game of football.

Graham: I think it's really interesting that, you know, Coach Elliott is talking about he wants to go out and find leaders.

Diane Roberts: Then, of course, Coach Calhoun -- Troy Calhoun -- from the Air Force Academy. He says that, you know, leadership can be individual, but it can also be collective. And he feels very strongly that everybody on the team can play a part, and he feels like it's important for them. And they can all have an impact in the direction of the team, but also in the direction of, you know, what's happening after that? Not just the two or three or the four captains who are picked.

Graham: Yeah, no, it's fascinating. But here's a real nugget. You came up with this great bit that we just didn't have time for in the show to use the magic. To me, this is the "quan". I'm going to steal the line from Jerry Maguire the "quan". So what are the three C's?

Diane: I came across something from some sports psychologists Larry Lauer and Kevin Blue, and they say that team captains have to have the three C's.

The first C is CARING. They have to be undeniably passionate about the game, but also about their teammates. And if you think about it, every good captain, you know, what do they say after games? They're always talking about their teammates, and they never say it in a kind of lackadaisical way, either. The really good ones, they always have a lot of passion about it.

So the other one is COURAGEOUS. They have to be willing to step up. They have to be able to walk the talk. They can't be afraid to complete assignments just because they're hard. And so when you see an individual do that, when you see your captain do that, then you as the non-captain player, it gives you confidence that you can you can do it as well.

And another C, the third C is they have to be CONSISTENT. They have to hold themselves to a standard of giving 100 percent effort every single time they step on the field, whether it's the practice field or the playing field every single time ... they can't cut corners. And again, when your fellow teammates see you as the captain behaving in that manner, they have no choice but to behave in that manner because you're setting the example. You are leading.

So these three C's will serve service academy players, honestly service academy captains now and and well into their future. And actually, I think all of us can take a hint from that:

The Three C's Caring, Courageousness and Consistency.

edited for web by Joe Harman

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