Alaka’i-inspired leadership in the Men’s Basketball team


Breaking sports tradition, the University of Dallas men’s basketball team has no captain or formal leadership committee like the women’s team does. 

Instead, Head Coach Grahn said, “Our system of leadership and the structure that we give it is vastly different than than most other places. I like to be different, but not different just to be different. The things that we do are research based. They’re based on sports psychology, the best practices of other college programs, even other sports, professional coaching staffs, and professional teams.” 

Grahn believes that leadership is for everyone, so he allows each member of the team to be a leader in their own way. He based his beliefs off of an ancient Hawaiian tradition called Alaka’i. He explained, “It didn’t matter what your station was in life. It didn’t matter what your financial situation was. It didn’t matter if you were royalty or if you were a peasant. Everybody led and everybody led by example” 

This Hawaiian-inspired leadership dynamic encourages all the members of the team to lead in whatever way suits them. Grahn emphasized that this dynamic allows the freshmen and newcomers to feel as though they belong on the team and learn how to be leaders from day one.

“Because we don’t have an official captain, it’s all hands on deck,” said Matt Holloway, a senior business major and #10. “Myself and some of the other upperclassmen have encouraged the young guys to speak up if they see something and then be receptive if we do the same and speak up.”

Another one of the players, Marcus Juarez, a junior business major and #2, commented, “Freshmen can say whatever they want, a senior can say whatever he wants, and we all respect what they say and obviously if we have disagreements we settle it. I feel like every time we have that situation, it impacts us as a whole and we see that were all bought in, with the program and we all love each other”.

Some of the benefits of this dynamic are the connection the team feels and the continuous growth in leadership skills that each player can participate in. 

Holloway said, “I feel like this is probably the most connected group that I’ve been a part of in my four years. And obviously, we want to keep building upon that because it’s a long season.”

As the team is growing in their leadership skills, Holloway and Juarez commented on what the most important aspects of leadership are. 

Holloway shared, “I think the biggest thing for me is accountability. If you’re going to expect people to listen to you, and take your feedback and criticism, you need to be able to be receptive of that as well.”

On the other hand, Juarez expanded on the different types of leaders and how each one brings a unique perspective to the team dynamic. 

He said, “We have leaders that can lead by example, doing the right thing, staying after, coming in early before practice, staying late, being able to help your teammates when they need help. Vocal leaders obviously, we always need the people that bring the energy being loud, talking. So those are some key qualities and also being able to talk to your teammates in a way that doesn’t degrade them. You always want to bring up your teammates.”


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