In early January, the winter sports captains took a break from practice to hear from Captain Matt Hurley ’08 at the first annual Captains’ Dinner. This new tradition at The High School was conceived by Admission and Activities Fellow, Erin Phillips ’18 and aims to build camaraderie and inspire leadership among athletics captains at all levels each season.
While at Episcopal, Hurley played lacrosse, ran track, and served as captain of the football team his senior year. After his time on The Holy Hill, he attended the United States Military Academy West Point where he played lacrosse and studied international law and legal studies. Hurley graduated from West Point and was commissioned as an Army Infantry Officer in 2012, going on to serve in the U.S. Army for eight years. He spent a majority of his time as an infantry and special operations officer, ultimately becoming deputy commander of the largest company for one of three ranger battalions.
Hurley also completed five overseas deployments. He retired from the Army in August 2020 and currently works as a program manager at Meta Orbital Effects in Alexandria, Va. He received his Master of Science from Virginia Tech and his Master of Business Administration from the University of Virginia.
At the Captains’ Dinner, Hurley reminisced on his years of service, drawing similarities between leadership on the sports field and in the barracks. “Going from Episcopal to a strike force 10 leader was such a smooth and natural transition,” he reflected. “Essentially, I went from being in the locker room to a team room. I was able to leverage a lot of what I learned at Episcopal to form relational ties and build trust within my platoon.”
For Hurley, leadership came with risks. As a special operations soldier, he parachuted into denied areas to capture high-value targets. He cited trust and communication as tools that helped him lead groups of soldiers into single periods of darkness. “You have to trust the person to the left or the right of you to do what you need them to do when you need them to do it,” Hurley said. “Communication is the glue that ties all of this together.”
As a leader, Hurley followed a simple acronym to ensure he was well equipped for the task at hand. “‘Four CP’ stands for character, confidence, commitment, compassion, and preparation,” he told the audience in the Goodwin Hall of Fame Room. “As long as you follow this equation, your leadership tactics will be successful.”
He reassured students that serving as an athletic captain can be the best time to hone their individual leadership skills, which he said they all clearly possessed. He challenged them not to shy away from implementing new ideas, concepts, and tactics with their respective teams. Hurley encouraged students to make mistakes and force growth through uncomfortable situations. “You're not fundamentally deficient as a captain in any way. We all have areas for growth and employing a new leadership technique is a demonstrated commitment to the practice of actively developing leadership skills,” he stated.
The first event was a huge success, thanks to Hurley and all involved, including Director of Athletics Jen Fitzpatrick and Assistant Director of Athletics Kadeem Rodgers. Fitzpatrick said of the evening: “This marked the beginning of what we hope will be an impactful series for our team captains. As an alumnus, Matt was able to articulate his thoughts in a way that resonated uniquely with our students. At EHS we do powerful work with all of our students on the topic of leadership, but it feels particularly important to provide opportunities like this for our team captains to learn and grow. This was a fantastic start to what we are planning to be seasonal opportunities for similar gatherings.”