The captain class The hidden force that creates the world's greatest teams

Sam Walker

Book - 2017

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New York : Random House [2017]
First edition
Physical Description
xvii, 332 pages ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Sam Walker (author)
Review by Booklist Review

Walker, who helped create the Wall Street Journal's sports section in 2009, begins his study of leadership with a selection of the 16 greatest teams of all time, worldwide, among them the New York Yankees (1949-53), the Montreal Canadiens (1955-60), the Boston Celtics (1956-69), the Brazilian men's soccer team (1958-62), the Soviet men's ice-hockey team (1981-84), the Cuban women's volleyball team (1991-2000), and the San Antonio Spurs (1997-2016). The list itself is grist for animated sports conversation, but Walker then gleans the often-surprising qualities found among all the captains of such dissimilar teams: doggedness, aggressive play up to and beyond the rules, taking on thankless but necessary tasks, shunning big speeches, displaying commitment nonverbally, speaking truth to power, and possessing an ability to shut off strong emotions when they're not useful. Not included, interestingly, is athletic talent. As theoretical as his book might sound, Walker fully backs it with stats, names, games, even specific plays. Profitable reading for any sports organization; pleasurable reading for any casual fan.--Moores, Alan Copyright 2017 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Walker, former global sports editor of the Wall Street Journal, set out to identify the world's all-time greatest sports teams and determine the common factors that united them. This daunting search for the "DNA of greatness" required scouring dozens of newspaper and obscure websites. Walker settled on 16 elite teams from around the world, including baseball's New York Yankees (1949-1953), hockey's Montreal Canadiens (1955-1960), and soccer's Barcelona (2008-2013). As Walker points out, the common denominator was a captain who possessed at least one of seven key leadership attributes; scoring points and basking in the spotlight are not among them. Walker backs up his assertions with anecdotes from the field, the court, and the locker room, often focusing on captains whose names are not immediately recognizable (Carla Overbeck of the U.S. women's natonal soccer team, Maurice Richard of the Montreal Canadiens, Wayne Shelford of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team). Written for serious sports fans in lively language that also speaks to aspiring athletes and business professionals, this book offers a compelling argument for the value of inspired leadership. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

There are winners and losers in sports as well as in business. To answer the question of why some teams win more than others, journalist Walker (Fantasyland: A Sportswriter's Obsessive Bid To Win the World's Most Ruthless Fantasy Baseball) examines the role of the team captain, altering the common approach of assigning credit to the coach. Founding editor of the Wall Street Journal's sports section, Walker here introduces psychological concepts that apply to sports and business, making his case through clear examples of how each relates to one another. While the author offers solid examples, he only briefly touches on the fundamental variations between sports and business. First, there are differences among amateur players, journeymen players, and standard-bearer professionals. With the exception of the NFL, parity is often absent. Factor in endorsements and broadcast rights, and the analysis becomes even more muddled. Walker acknowledges this and asserts that the captaincy role is sadly in decline. Verdict Overall, an interesting take on the sports metaphor as applied to business that will appeal to readers interested in the psychology of sports.-Steven Silkunas, Fernandina Beach, FL © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

From the rugby pitch to the baseball diamond, a riveting analysis of greatness in sport.Following the end of one of the greatest streaks in history, the Connecticut women's basketball team's 111 consecutive wins, comes a timely study of what made sports' most successful teams so dominant. Walker (Fantasyland: A Season on Baseball's Lunatic Fringe, 2006), the founding editor of the Wall Street Journal's daily sports coverage, admits that what propelled him into "this all-consuming project" was witnessing the "transformation" of the 2004 Boston Red Sox "from a half-assed bunch of jokers to legitimate contenders," as well as his lifelong "ache to be part of a great team." Diligently establishing the parameters of what sports he would and would not consider and the objective criteria used to analyze a team's success, Walker arrived at a short list of "the top 10 percent of the top 1 percent of teams" from across the globe since the 1880s. In this illustrious company, the author includes recognizable groups such as the 1949-1953 New York Yankees, the only team in history to win the World Series five consecutive times, but also some unknown to U.S. readerse.g., Espectaculares Morenas del Caribe (1991-2000) from Cuba, who won "every major women's international volleyball tournament for ten straight years." Though having had no expectation of finding a common denominator when he began scrutinizing what enabled these disparate paragons of victory to dominate their respective sports, Walker reached an intriguing conclusion: "the most crucial ingredient in a team that achieves and sustains historic greatness is the character of the player who leads it"not the coach, the management, a franchise's wealth, or overall talent. Combining statistics with epic stories from the playing field, Walker compellingly makes his case that captains possessing traits not usually assumed as shared among leaders are what make empires. A fascinating sports study with much wider-reaching application, featuring page-turning tales of personal triumph and cogent analysis. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.