Chang Hye Jin and Kim Woojin: Korea’s team captains

15 June 2016
Antalya (TUR)
The Korean athletes act as leaders to their teammates, supporting them on the field and communicating with the coaches.

Leadership is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the action of leading a group of people or an organisation, or the ability to do this.”

“Leader”, “leading”, “lead” or “leads” are words commonly used in archery to describe someone or a team that takes the first seed, is winning or has been on top for a while.

These common words are also often used to describe Korea, one of the most dominant archery nations throughout the Hyundai Archery World Cup era and before, at World Archery Championships and, of course, the Olympics. But the meaning of leadership in the Korean archery team goes beyond being the best on the field.

Korea appoints an athlete leader – or captain – in each of its teams.

To be a captain of a Korean team it means you are good at what you do, it means respect, responsibility and, based on your age, a capability to advise other teammates.

Having an athlete captain within the team, says Korean head coach Moon Hyung Cheol, is essential.

“The leader on the team is important because it means communication,” he explained.

“Choosing a leader gives the team a direction, discipline and recognition. Sometimes coaches don’t have much time to spend with each of their athletes, so if they have a representative on the team that can transmit the thoughts, suggestions or messages, it’s good.”

In Korea, once a team is selected, each of the athletes are able to speak with their teammates to propose ideas, present a manifesto and campaign for themselves as the ideal candidate to be that team’s leader – to act as the spokesperson between the athletes and coach.

(And the coaches do still have the last word.)

In Korean culture, said Kim Woojin, age is important as it translates to respect – that’s one of the reasons that he and Chang Hye Jin were elected as the captains of the current Korean teams, the men and women that will compete at Rio 2016.

Ku Bonchan and I were the only politicians this time. Lee is the youngest in the team, so he never really had a chance,” said Woojin, laughing with his two teammates.

“I feel a big responsibility because I need to be sure we are all happy, that our team is in complete harmony at each event in order to do well, to perform well,” Woojin, the reigning World Archery Champion, added.

As the eldest of the Korean ladies, it was decided that Chang, just one year older than Ki Bo Bae, be the women’s team captain. Ki, the Olympic Champion, endorses Chang’s role.

“Even though I have a lot experience shooting international and at the Olympics, Chang also has experience and she’s good,” said Ki. “She’s the oldest one in her family, so I think she has better leadership skills than any of us. She’s the right person and I’m happy with her as our leader.”

Twenty-nine year-old Chang, who has three younger sisters at home, feels the pressure that means to be a the Korean team captain.

“I feel a big responsibility and an extra pressure because it’s not only about supporting each other while shooting or training, but to make our team even better to stay strong,” said Chang. The team just celebrated a new team world record during qualification at the third stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in Antalya.

“Even though we have coaches and a head coach, we also need a leader to make the teamwork better. It’s important to have someone you can talk to and trust to make us better,” Choi Misun added.

The Korean teams’ unity is clear. So is their professionalism – and an approach to teamwork that’s not usual on the archery field. They respect and support each other and they transmit that feeling to those who witness them in competition.

Kim Woojin and Chang Hye Jin are tasked with the mission of leading their teammates in 2016, to be in permanent contact with their coaches – and bring out the best in each of the archers on the field.

When the Korean team say that the team is most important, they mean it.