The captain's curse

Oct. 18, 2005, midnight | By Lois Bangiolo | 16 years, 1 month ago

The mystery of varsity girls' soccer team

As the ball flies toward her, senior Sarah Rumbaugh jumps up into the air to head it. Suddenly, another player smashes into her, toppling her over. As she hits the ground, her legs lock and she tears the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her knee. Her soccer season is cut short, and the varsity girls' soccer team has lost its captain - for the sixth time. The captain's curse has struck again.In the past two years, the girls' soccer team has had seven captains. Only one of them, Blair graduate Vicky Dean, has survived a whole season without being injured, being kicked off, or quitting the team. When Rumbaugh was injured, the team began joking about what they call "the captain's curse." "It's a curse," says senior Sophie Esparza, who plays sweeper for the team. "When Sarah got injured, it was like, 'wow, that's number six.' "

Curse 6, Blair 1

The curse began in 2003 when the team chose four captains instead of the usual two. One decided to go to a different school, one was caught possessing marijuana, and the third, also an editor-in-chief of Silver Chips, decided to concentrate on her responsibilities to the paper rather than soccer.

Then there was one: Vicky Dean. The team chose an additional captain, but she was expelled from the team because of alcohol use on school grounds. "We came into the season worrying about having four captains, and it turns out we only had one," noted senior Maddie Driskill.

At the end of last year's season, the team chose two new captains, Driskill and Rumbaugh. Unfortunately, the curse scored again. Right after the season began, Driskill left the team.

She had considered leaving the team before the season started, but stayed on because she felt she had a responsibility to the team. Yet when the season began, she realized more and more that she didn't enjoy soccer anymore. "In every sport, you [look forward] to the games, but even at games I didn't want to be there," Driskill explains.

She also felt that soccer did not fit into her life anymore. With a difficult course load to juggle, college applications to complete and a job at California Tortilla, she did not have the time for practice and games anymore. "It was a stress I really did not need," Driskill says.

Soccer coach Robert Gibb recognizes how hard the decision to leave must have been. He applauds captains for giving up their position, knowing that even if they leave the team, they are making the right decision for themselves and the team. "Why be a leader if your heart's not in it?" he asks.

Standing on the sidelines

Rumbaugh, however, did not choose to leave soccer. Her injury could put her out of sports for six to nine months, not only ending her soccer season, but threatening her participation in the softball season later this year too. There is, however, a glimmer of hope that she could recover in as little as four months. She must receive surgery on her knee to be able to play at all.

These past few weeks have been difficult for Rumbaugh. She has always been involved in sports; not playing is a shock for her. She confesses, "It's really hard for me, just because sports is the highlight of my life. I just play sports. Sports is what I am."

Although injured, Rumbaugh is still the captain; she attends practices and games, but stands on the sidelines. She still acts as the leader of the team: When the referees call for captains at the start of a game, it is Rumbaugh who goes out. At practices she helps Gibb coach. Though she is unable to play, she still "has so much to offer the team," Gibb comments. "She has the qualities of being a great coach someday. She loves sports; she's always been involved in sports. It's so much a part of who she is."


Gibb, who does not really believe the team is cursed, has a few not-so-mystical reasons why the captains leave. He calls his players "Renaissance women," who excel at in school as well as sports. He estimates that the average player's GPA is close to 3.5 and knows that they are involved in many different activities. Rumbaugh agrees, "People who tend to be strong captains tend to do well in school." Their diversity of interests sometimes meant that soccer had to be left behind, as was the case for two of the former captains.

Another reason is that the captains are chosen at the end of the season. The team has done it this way for the past four to five years because, as Gibb puts it, "the coaches are only with the team during the season. It's important to have a couple of players [as captains] to keep the spirit of the team alive during the year."

During the offseason, captains organize an indoor soccer team, bonding activities and soccer camp. However, the almost year-long gap between the election and the next season gives ample time for difficult circumstances to arise.

Although their coach disagrees, the girls on the team jokingly predict the "curse's" return. "I think we just have a curse. I told the juniors that if I were them, I wouldn't want to be captain because then they wouldn't be on the team," Rumbaugh says in mock gravity.

Last updated: May 4, 2021, 1 p.m.

Lois Bangiolo. Lois Bangiolo was born on March 14, pi day, an auspicious date as she is now in the math-science magnet. In addition to writing for Silver Chips Online she runs track and is secretary of the MBHS Key Club. More »

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