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NHS Hockey Captains Make Leadership A High Priority Redhawks’ Quartet Sets Positive Tone

Natick’s hockey captains, from left, are Nick Haswell, Matthew Haskell, James Carr, and Ryan Comeau.

Staff Sports Writer
Leadership in athletics comes in a variety of ways.
Some captains lead by example on the field while others command respect at practice. Some are leaders off the field and some lead in the classroom. Leadership also is evident when student-athletes are vocal or communicative. Displaying support or encouragement is another approach to leadership.

 Natick coach Bill Lacouture puts a high priority on leadership.

Some attributes that are keys to quality leadership include accepting responsibility, patience, understanding, fairness and accountability. Captains may choose to be vocal or they can be quiet, letting their athleticism do their talking.
At Natick High, hockey coach Bill Lacouture has four captains who lead in different ways. Whatever avenues they’ve chosen, the mix is a plus because the Redhawks are getting results — positive results. Natick was 3-1 at Local Town Pages deadline and once again in the running to win the Carey Division title and earn a berth in the State Tournament. The team’s momentum, however, has been slowed by the outbreak of Covid-19, which has forced postponement of several games.
The Redhawks’ leadership team consists of seniors Nick Haswell, Ryan Comeau, James Carr and Matt Haskell.
Here’s how Lacouture regards his captains followed by a profile of the players  commenting on their leadership styles: 
Lacouture On His Captains
HASWELL — “A leader who complements the other captains, Nick has a desire to work to improve. If he could be on the ice 12 hours a day, he would. He loves the game and that makes others eager to improve based on Nick’s results. As a junior, he was our best defenseman and now he’s one of the league’s best. Actions speak louder than words and Nick has the characteristics to lead no matter what he does. And, that’s a special quality — when others follow your lead based on integrity, character, and honor.’’ 
COMEAU — “A leader whose work ethic shows on and off the ice, Ryan puts the team first. His teammates look to him as a big brother who makes every player in the program feel part of the family. Ryan’s improvement makes him a force as a defenseman and as a power forward. A shutdown defenseman, we count on him in man-down situations, and as a power forward, he intimidates opponents with toughness and physical play that creates opportunities for his teammates.’’ 

CARR — “A leader who can play defense or forward at an excellent level, James can be counted on to make a big play and to shut down our opponents’ best players. It’s a rare quality to be able to do both. He makes other players better on the ice, but he’s also modest, humble and tough as nails.’’ 
HASKELL — “A leader by his actions on the ice, Matt has speed, grit and a drive for perfection. He’s a captain of a few words but when he speaks, players respond on high alert. A center, Matt has college speed and deserves every opportunity to reach his goals. He’s also a leader on the academic front.’’
Nick Haswell
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Haswell is a well-rounded captain who strives to lead by example and by being vocal and supportive. He’s also a firm believer that an all-out effort in practice will lead to top-notch performance in games.
“Working hard in practice and playing with lots of energy are important,’’ he said. “A strong work ethic in practice makes it difficult to play poorly in games. Most everything will come easier on game day. A captain usually sets the tone and showing leadership helps the team stay connected and builds team chemistry.’’
The 18-year-old Natick native, who also is a defenseman in lacrosse, lists three keys that are imperative to be a quality leader.
“It’s important to read different situations and react accordingly, Haswell said. “It’s also a plus to know when to be serious and when to lighten up. A third component is an awareness of when to be quiet and let teammates do what’s needed.’’
Crediting Natick’s other captains for improving his leadership skills, Haswell is acutely aware that teammates who respond to a captain’s suggestions not only help team chemistry, but also can produce winning results.
“The key to getting good responses to any suggestions I make involves being friendly, supportive and encouraging,’’ Haswell emphasized. “Presenting yourself as bossy or trying to be a dictator won’t work. Having Ryan, James, and Matt as captains has helped me. They know how to keep a locker-room calm and they’re supportive if I’m feeling down.’’
Haswell fully understands that a captain must lead and he knows that aspect will be a valuable commodity in college and in the workplace. 
“Being a captain will be an asset later,’’ Haswell noted. “It’s helping me to sharpen my leadership skills now and it’s helping me as a communicator. “Coach Lacouture is a good example of a leader. He says things that keep us going in the right direction and he never loses sight of the importance of hard work and basics.’’
Haswell, who has two goals and one assist in four games, is a National Honor Society student who plans on majoring in either engineering or business. 
Ryan Comeau
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Comeau relies on a leadership style of being vocal and supportive, often using his voice to elevate energy.
“What’s crucial is to know what to say and when to say it,’’ he said. “And, when a teammate comes off the ice, I give him a tap on the shoulder to show support. It’s a way to heighten our energy level. Other keys are to do the right things outside the rink and to be a captain who’s unselfish.’’
The 18-year-old native of Natick emphasizes that having a ‘C’ on his jersey “is something younger players look up to.’’ He’s always striving to set a good example and to be a legitimate role model.
Comeau admits that listening and watching previous captains lead when he was a sophomore and junior have helped him in his leadership role. “They demonstrated the right way to lead and it’s rubbed off on all the captains,’’ he noted. “I’ve learned that building trust with teammates is the best way to get reaction to any suggestions I make.’’
A good student, Comeau, who first played defense before moving to forward, plans on majoring in education in college. He’s sure that being a captain in high school will be a plus not only in college, but also in the workplace. 
“Leading people in high school is an asset that should be beneficial later on in life,’’ said Comeau. “In sport, players often have to deal with adversity and heartbreak, so it’s a plus if it’s handled well. As sophomores, we lost in the tourney to Franklin in the quarterfinals. That setback helped us sharpen our leadership skills.’’ 
Comeau, who has two assists in four games, says that he admires Lacouture’s leadership style. “He’s intense and he’s passionate about hockey,’’ Comeau noted. “And, those qualities rub off on his players.’’
James Carr 
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Carr emphasizes that “a leader sets the tone for the entire year and as captains we’re being watched — for our intensity, our effort and our preparation.’’
A leader by example and by being vocal and supportive, Carr firmly believes the keys to success for a captain are to be responsible and not point fingers. “It’s important for a captain to accept blame if he’s at fault,’’ he noted. “And, the best way to get teammates to respond to suggestions is to be genuine — show you care by being yourself.’’
Crediting past captains for helping him in his current role, Carr is fully aware that being selected a captain will be a plus long after his hockey career ends at Natick. “There’ll be a time when I’ll be in a position to lead,’’ he said. “Leadership will be necessary in a specific situation and someone will have to step up and make a key decision. As a captain now, I’m getting experience in how to lead. It’s a good place to start the process.’’
Carr, who’s the Redhawks’ goalie in lacrosse, will get an opportunity to display his leadership skills in the spring as a lacrosse captain. A National Honor Society student, he’ll major in business at Bryant University after graduation. 
A fan of his coach’s style, Carr, who has two goals and two assists in four games, lists three attributes that he says make Lacouture a quality leader. “Our coach is genuine with the players,’’ Carr said. “He brings energy to every practice and he relies on fundamentals.’’
 The most significant life lesson that Carr has learned from athletics is one that he believes can take an individual far. It focuses on effort.
“If you give great effort to whatever situations you face, then you’ll be rewarded with success,’’ he said.
Matt Haskell
The 6-foot, 175-pound Haskell leads by example and by being vocal, but the way he focuses on being encouraging and supportive definitely defines his approach.
“When I was a freshman on the varsity, the older kids made me feel accepted,’’ he recalled. “I like helping younger players and I strive to make sure they’re comfortable. One of the keys to good leadership is making the locker-room feel like it’s their second home.’’
Haskell learned early on as a captain that quality leadership was crucial to his team’s success and that every team needs leaders. 
“I’ve learned a lot about leading from previous captains, from coach Lacouture and from our other captains,’’ he said. “I saw how previous captains treated everyone and I get good advice from our current captains. As for coach Lacouture, he shows intensity, caring, and support for his players. A huge plus for him is his knowledge of hockey. He knows how to react in all kinds of situations.’’
Acutely aware that accepting responsibility and building trust also define a top-notch leader, the Natick native relies on being friendly when needed and being firm when it’s necessary. Plus, Haskell, who pitches and plays the outfield for the baseball team, is confident that his leadership role in high school will be an asset in college and beyond.
“I’m sure being a captain will help me later on in life,’’ he noted. “I’ve learned how to be accountable and striving to be a well-rounded leader should help me when dealing with a variety of situations. By sharpening leadership skills, it can help one be understanding and kind to people.’’
A member of the National Honor Society, Haskell, who tutors middle school students, has yet to decide on where he’ll attend college. He plans on majoring in science.
Haskell, who has three assists in four games, is aware of the challenges he faces on the ice but he’s also aware that there’s no rocket science involved when it comes to effort. “You get rewarded if you give great effort,’’ he sai