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A different way to pick captains

TULLY TALK

Burroughs High Coach Keith Knoop likes to stay on the cutting edge

when it comes to football.

Whether it’s initiating new drills to help his players improve,

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developing innovative defensive schemes or introducing challenging

training methods, Knoop is always looking for ways to keep things

fresh in the Indian program.

Recently, Knoop read about something he thought could bring a

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change -- for the good -- to the leadership of the Burroughs team.

The coach then came up with a plan to implement the new idea.

“The idea that I read about had to do with the way a team named

its captains,” Knoop said.

“Although some teams let the players pick the captains, I have

never done it that way at Burroughs. Here, the coaches usually choose

who are going to be the captains.

“But what I was reading about was a different way to choose.

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Instead of just naming the captains, anyone who wanted to be a team

leader had to go through an interview process.”

Knoop said he has never allowed his players to name their captains

for very good reasons.

“A lot of times when you leave it up to the players, they’re going

to pick whoever are the best athletes, or the most popular players,

to be captains,” he said. “But there are players out there who may

not be the most talented or the most popular, but who could possess

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very good leadership qualities.”

With his plan in place, prospective Indian captains met two weeks

ago to go through an interview process.

Before players could even apply for a captain position, they

needed to meet certain criteria. The qualifications included:

* Grade-point average of 2.5 or higher.

* Has to be an incoming senior.

* Has to have three seasons of Burroughs football experience.

* Desire to do the job.

* No criminal arrests or convictions.

* Good standing in the community.

* Good time-management skills.

“Although we wanted the players to have all the criteria, there

was one player who had a little problem in his past and didn’t fit

one of the qualifications,” Knoop said. “But I encouraged him still

apply to be a captain.

“I told the player that in life, you might be up for a job and you

might not meet every single qualification. But you have to give it a

try because you never know what will happen. You could end up getting

the job.”

Each applicant was required to show up for his interview in a suit

and tie and had to provide a resume highlighting his strengths and

accomplishments.

“The interviews were very business-like,” Knoop said. “Everything

was taken seriously and the guys were very focused on what they had

to do to become a captain.”

The interested players went before a panel that included Knoop,

two first-year varsity players and a Burroughs Arrowhead Booster Club

member.

From an initial group of 14 who applied to be captains, the field

was whittled down to six finalists.

Knoop enlisted the help of Abbie Britton -- a Burroughs booster

with a son in the program -- to come up with some challenging

interview questions for the captain candidates.

The questions challenged the players and required them come up

with answers to tough situations and scenarios.

One of the questions was: “A key [teammate] is under extreme

stress and you need him to focus. What would you do?”

Candidate Fernel Vasquez, a left tackle, responded: “I’d remind

him that football is fun, that we are lucky to have this journey

together. I’d put the moment in perspective.”

Another question was: “If one of your teammates is falling apart

off the field and it was beginning to show in the game, would you rat

him out?”

Running back/defensive back Evan Gomez had a quick response to the

question.

“It’s not about ratting out anyone,” he said. “It’s about helping

someone who is a member of the football family.

“I would like to be the kind of leader who is able to see a kid in

trouble and help before they reach the breaking point.”

Not only did some of the players look the part of someone applying

for an important position, but some brought special touches to their

interviews.

Left guard Esteban Pereanez carried a detailed portfolio, complete

with his athletic and scholastic accomplishments.

Another player, linebacker/center Gagik Abrahamian -- who has a

4.2 grade point average -- impressed the panel with his views about a

player’s obligation to maintain high academic standards.

Some of the players’ presentations and dedication to the process

even surprised Knoop.

“I’ll tell you what,” Knoop said. “Someone like Gagik was so

impressive, his interview could have gotten him a job at a Bill Gates

company. He was that good.

“I think the whole process turned out great. We were really able

to see these players’ abilities as leaders and what they can bring to

the program.

“I think all the captains we ended up picking will be very good

team leaders for us.”

The captains are: Vasquez, Pereanez, Abrahamian,

linebacker/fullback Alex Phillips and safety Matt Patterson.

Abbie Britton contributed to this column.

* JEFF TULLY is the sports editor of the Burbank Leader. He can be

reached at 843-8700, or by e-mail at jeff.tully@latimes.com.


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