After a tense and drawn-out election, the women’s basketball team voted Maria Smear ’03 captain for the 2002-03 season.
The team elected Smear after confusion over the electoral process and ties among candidates forced the players to vote three times.
Smear, a junior guard, missed much of the 2001-02 season with an injury, but led the Bulldogs in scoring her sophomore year.
“It’s a hard thing to elect one person to be a captain,” Yale guard Caitlin Bair ’02 said. “It’s usually a pretty stressful time because you love every single one of your teammates.”
The coaching staff presented a ballot with the names of three team members to the players. The two rising seniors, Smear and guard Helene Schutrumpf ’03, were eligible for captain, as was forward Bonnie Smith ’04.
By putting Smith on the ballot, head coach Amy Backus exercised her right to nominate up to two players in addition to rising senior letterwinners.
“Certainly, there are people who think that a captainship should go to a senior; I presented Bonnie because I wanted the team to have choices,” Backus said. “There were some hard feelings because I did nominate someone other than a senior, and that probably escalated into another direction. But I nominated Bonnie after consultation with the outgoing seniors.”
Several players indicated that while the majority of the team wanted a rising senior to be elected captain, they also agreed that Smith was a worthy candidate.
“All three of them were very able candidates,” Morgan Richards ’05, a Yale guard, said. “It was so difficult to vote for captain because each of them would have done a wonderful job.”
In the first vote, some Yale players chose to abstain and the coaches were unclear whether the Department of Athletics’ policy on captain elections allowed this. As a result, a second vote was held, this time producing no majority winner and a two-way tie. Finally, a third vote was held Apr. 10, overseen by Yale Athletics Director Tom Beckett, and Smear received a majority vote.
Beckett declined to comment about his role in the process, but Backus said that the players approached him to clarify the rules and procedures. It was determined that abstentions were allowed, but that since there was still no majority winner, a third vote would be held.
“It was really no one’s fault, intentionally,” Richards said of the confusion.
Smear appeared in just six games this season after being sidelined with a stress fracture. In 2000-01, however, Smear led the team in scoring and minutes played. She was 23rd in the nation and second in the Ivy League in 3-point shooting percentage. For her efforts, the 5-foot-11 guard was selected to the All-Ivy’s second team.
Backus said Smear’s time away from the court this season will only enhance her leadership abilities.
“Most players will say that they become a much better player after they’ve had to sit and watch,” Backus said. “You sort of remove yourself and become an observer of things. One of the reasons why she was elected captain was that she made some very insightful comments to the team both on the bench and during halftime.”
Many players echoed Backus’ sentiments.
“I think she just has a really well rounded knowledge of the game,” Brynn Gingras ’04 said. “I remember coming out of the game one time and she just totally gave me ideas of what to do. [She is] able to help someone when they have no clue what’s going on.”
Schutrumpf, this season’s leading scorer, will help Smear with the leadership responsibilities.
“I think that they’ll be great leaders next year,” this year’s captain Meg Simpson ’02 said of the two rising seniors. “They just are responsible for keeping the team traditions alive and keeping the flow of our team next year.”
For now, the team is trying to put the confusion and tension of the election process behind them and focus on improving upon its fifth place finish in the Ivy League this season.
“Throughout the entire process, even though it was difficult, we didn’t break up or divide as a team,” Richards said. “We had to realize that whatever this title might mean to other teams, for us it is just a title and it’s not going to define the success of our team.”