Garaway captains are tackling the mental side of the game of football as they develop leadership

Being called “thick” isn’t always a huge compliment, but for the four captains of the Garaway Pirates football team, it is as good as it gets.

Athletic teams name captains in just about every sport. Some take that honor quite seriously while in other sports it doesn’t mean all that much.

For the Garaway Pirates football team being named captain comes with a great deal of responsibility, not even necessarily on the field.

Working with Garaway principal and former legendary golf coach Ryan Taggart, the team’s captains, a quartet of Pirates seniors including R.J. Jacobs, Quinn Miller, Ty Hamsher and Joel Honigford, have been asked to put themselves out there in some challenging places.

The seniors came up with the anagram THICK because they felt it helps them focus on traits that can only help the team become the best it can be. THICK stands for Trust, Humility, Integrity, Courage and Know when.

“It’s been huge for not only us as captains, but for our team as a whole,” Miller said. “It has helped us understand we have to fight through some things, and we can do that better if we all do it together. What makes it work is that it just isn’t benefitting us as captains, but the rest of the seniors pick up on it too, and then it trickles down through the rest of the guys, and everybody buys in. If it was just us four, it wouldn’t be of much value, but when everybody buys in, it is going to make a difference.”

Miller said the leadership program has made a huge impact on the team and has helped them grow together.

Each Sunday all of the captains meet with Taggart at head coach Jason Wallick’s house. Together they learn a lot about each other and in the process learn how to become better leaders on and off the field.

Not only have Taggart’s sessions focused on finding the strength in leadership of each of the captains, it has also delved into tougher places, helping each young man decipher weaknesses they can work on.

For Jacobs that was holding up under pressure.

“We got put in some pretty awkward spots, and it was tough to admit our weaknesses, but it challenges us to work on those weaknesses. When we fix those weaknesses, it only makes us better as leaders.”

Honigford said learning to trust and respect each other as teammates has been a time of growth for him personally, and he knows the rest of the leadership team feels the same way.

He said, “It is one common goal, and nobody is out there doing what they want to do to make themselves look good.”

He believes the challenges Taggart puts on them have helped him grow and mature.

“It makes you grow,” Honigford said. “It’s a lot of accountability for us.”

The results of what Taggart has done through the leadership program haven’t gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.

Wallick said he has seen a huge difference from his players in terms of devotion and humility, and he said the value in teaching leadership has been a massive step toward not only making his football team better, but also making better young men.

“These guys are learning to trust one another,” Wallick said. “This program has allowed these kids to come together. I think in the past we have had a close-knit team, but we had a lot of pods. This has eliminated those pods and made us more of a team as everyone begins to buy in. Ryan has done a wonderful job working with these kids and helping them grow.”

According to Taggart, he said developing leadership skills in the captains has allowed each to talk to and challenge their teammates to put forth maximum effort.

“Disagreement doesn’t mean rejection,” Taggart said. “These guys are learning that right now, and I am very proud of them.”

Taggart said that while he has had a lot of fun meeting with the captains and challenging them, the most impressive part of the program has been in watching them unite.

“They value each other’s presence and the role that every single guy on that team plays, whether it is first or fifth on the depth charts,” Taggart said. “They motivate each other, and each of the four captains has a specific leadership role that coincides with what they are really good at and caters to their strengths. They are able to utilize that into developing themselves as people, and that ultimately transitions into better performances and better relationships in the locker room.”

Sometimes football isn’t all about gaining yards, creating scores and grinding your opponent down into the dirt. Sometimes the biggest strides a team can make come not in the 100 yards between end zones, but rather the gains taking place between the six inches between their ears.

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