By Harrison Kelly
Leadership and sports are synonymous with each other, notably in college athletics. In most cases, leadership roles come from seniors who have the most experience with coaches, opposing teams, and the day-to-day structure of the team that evolves through each year.
But what happens when senior leadership is sparse throughout Springfield College athletics? There is a considerable absence of seniors in most teams on campus.
The women’s lacrosse team will only have three seniors this upcoming year, out of its 27 players on the roster (11 percent). The men’s basketball team will only have one true senior on its roster this upcoming year.
On the 36-man baseball roster, there are only six seniors (16%).
Sophomore Katie Stallone of the women’s lacrosse team, believes that although Springfield is Division III for most sports, teams are treated like they are Division I programs.
“Some students decide to focus on school instead of sports because it just gets [to be] too much,” she said. “We have one of the best strength and conditioning programs and facilities for a Division III school. Also, our coaches are so passionate, so it’s contagious for athletes to put in Division I effort all the time to be the best they can be.”
The grind of a Springfield athlete’s typical weekday can be grueling.
“During fall ball, we have practice, lift, and conditioning which is time consuming, but in the long run, it pays off because no other school we play is working as hard as we are,” Stallone said.
In addition to the exhaustion of hours upon hours committed to a sport, such time consumption can ward off upperclassmen, as schoolwork gets more intense within their major.
“Physical education, athletic training, and physical therapy majors have mandatory off-campus internships, which force them to stop playing their sport,” said junior Logan Barrett of the baseball team.
Though the lack of seniors on a sports team can be spun into a positive situation. This year the men’s basketball team will not have a player who has played for four years. This means that captain positions must be given to juniors, or the most deserving.
Men’s basketball head coach Charlie Brock certainly picked one player in particular most worthy of the accolade. Junior captain Brandon Eckles has had the most playing experience under Coach Brock. He is also a New Student Orientation leader, and on the Executive Board for NSO, which has prepared him to take on the role.
“[Coach Brock] can trust me as a player, but I also know what his expectations are. I’ve learned to be mentally tough because of the amount of games that I’ve played,” said Eckles. “My passion to do the right thing in basketball is to attend all the lifts, work hard in workouts, and give my absolute greatest effort.”
Being a part of NSO has helped Eckles develop as a leader also. He said, “NSO has contributed to my growth and my passion in doing the right thing and to treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Springfield College may not be the average Division III school. The culture emphasizes work ethic, dedication, and school work, which may lead to a lack of senior athletes.
Eckles offered a sentiment that his basketball team shares, and is what is preached throughout each team at Springfield. He said, “Since we have junior captains, we try not to make age a thing. Anyone can be a leader. We may have one senior, but we are a full team and we treat each other well and trust everyone.”
Even though there is a lack of seniors on teams, it does not take away from leadership and team value. Eckles exemplified this philosophy, and Springfield College does an exceptional job at taking care of our athletes with our facilities, hiring the most passionate coaches to push a Division I attitude, and giving our student-athletes plenty of opportunities to become leaders.