In Their Own Words: A Captain's Experience and Evolution

In Their Own Words: A Captain's Experience and Evolution

Brenna Murphy, Fifth Year, Brock Badgers Women's Hockey

For as long as I can remember growing up I’ve had this natural tendency to lead.  

Whether it would be forcing my sister to play ‘school’ and be my ‘student’ or organizing and creating games on the playground for the kids in my class, I took pride in being ‘in charge’. In junior kindergarten at parent-teacher interviews my teacher told my parents that I was ‘taking a leadership role in the playgroup’. Personally, I think they were trying to find a way to tell my parents that I was being a little bit bossy. In my opinion, being ‘bossy’ is not an effective way to lead.

Throughout elementary school and high school, I was presented with many opportunities to develop my leadership skills whether it be as a captain on various sports teams or as a mentor/peer helper with classmates. It wasn’t until I got selected as a member of leadership on my team at Brock that I learned not only what it means to truly be a leader, but also how developing sound leadership skills will help me in the future with my career path. 

“I felt like I was ready.”

It was at the beginning of my second year in the Bachelor of Accounting Co-op program and on the Women’s Hockey team at Brock when I was asked by my coaches if I would be comfortable with being an alternate captain. I knew it would be difficult being one of the captains at only 19 years old, on a team with girls up to 4 or 5 years older than me, but I felt like I was ready, so I accepted the role.

One aspect that I felt was significantly different from being a captain on a minor hockey team compared to a university varsity team was the level of responsibility that it came with. Not only are you considered responsible for yourself, but your coaches, athletic department, and community expect you to also take responsibility for the actions of your team as a whole. Anytime anyone did something other than what was expected of them, it was first the responsibility of us as captains to talk to the player(s) involved and diffuse the situation.

As a young member of the team, this type of communication was not always easy. I had to learn how to use different styles of communication to approach different people. I also had to learn how to get the message across in a way that I would not lose the trust or respect of my teammates. Admittedly, this was not something that I did well that year and something that I knew I would need to work on in order to be a successful leader on my team in the future.

Right before I began my third year on the team, my coaches approached me again and asked if I would be the captain of the team. During that year as captain, I experienced a lot of challenges that I believe really helped me develop into a better leader and a better person.

One of the major challenges I experienced was leading a resistant team towards a new ‘championship-minded’ culture. I began trying to lead by example, which proved to be a difficult task for a team resistant to follow. With guidance from my coaches and some of the other players on my team, I decided that the best way to get the team headed in the right direction was to get to know each player on an individual level and to start spending more quality time with the team away from the rink. This to me was a turning point in building trust and respect with my team.

I was able to learn a lot about each individual, which allowed me to develop better communication and empathy on both an individual and team level. The development of these particular skills in my first year as captain have proved to be a big part in being a successful leader now.

It is now the beginning of my fifth and final season as a Badger. It is also my fourth year wearing a letter on my jersey. As a result of both personal maturity and growth, along with the excellent guidance and leadership of my coaches and the other three captains (Jensen Murphy, Annie Berg, and Kaitlyn Colonna), this season, culturally, has started off as an incredible team to be a part of. 

“With enough tenacity and grit, I can persevere through just about anything.”

In the past as a leader I’ve been primarily focused on leading the team towards a new culture and earning their respect and trust. Now, with the group of girls we have this year leading by example is an easy task. All the challenges that I have had to overcome as captain of this team have shown me that with enough tenacity and grit I can persevere through just about anything.

My main goal for this year, along with leading by example on and off the ice, is to learn how to be a better motivator. As captain, I’ve been able to not only develop my communication and listening skills, but I’ve also learned how to effectively delegate, adapt to anything that’s thrown at me, and build lasting relationships.

As my time at Brock University is quickly coming to an end, my plan for the future is to work as an accountant in the world of business. I doubt that any of my technical hockey skills will help me out in my future career, but there is no doubt about it that all the skills I’ve learned and developed over these last 4 years as a captain will be transferable to the business world. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and learn from some incredible coaches, support-staff, and teammates over these last 5 years and I am very much looking forward to an amazing final season and a successful career thereafter.