Sam Walker is The Wall Street Journal’s deputy editor for enterprise, the unit that directs the paper’s in-depth page-one features and investigative reporting projects. A former reporter, sports columnist, and sports editor, Walker founded the Journal’s prizewinning daily sports coverage in 2009.
In addition to The Captain Class, he is the author of Fantasyland, a bestselling account of his attempt to win America’s top fantasy baseball expert competition (of which he is a two-time champion).
Walker attended the University of Michigan. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.
ABOUT THE BOOK
In The Captain Class, Walker profiles the greatest teams in history and identifies the counterintuitive leadership qualities of the unconventional men and women who drove them to succeed.
He began by setting out to answer one of the most hotly debated questions in sports: What are the greatest teams of all time? He devised a formula, then applied it to thousands of teams from leagues all over the world, from the NBA to the English Premier League to Olympic field hockey. When he was done, he had a list of the sixteen most dominant teams in history.
With the list in hand, Walker became obsessed with another, more complicated question: What did these freak teams have in common? As Walker dug into their stories, a distinct pattern emerged: Each team had the same type of captain—a singular leader with an unconventional skill set who drove it to achieve sustained, historic greatness.
Fueled by a lifetime of sports spectating, twenty years of reporting, and a decade of painstaking research, The Captain Class tells the surprising story of what makes teams exceptional.
Drawing on original interviews with athletes from two dozen countries, as well as general managers, coaches, executives, and others skilled at building teams, Walker identifies the seven core qualities of this Captain Class—from extreme doggedness and emotional control to a knack for nonverbal communication to “instrumental” aggression and the courage to stand apart. Told through riveting accounts of some of the most pressure-soaked moments in sports history—from Bill Russell’s legendary “Coleman Play” in the 1957 NBA Finals to Barcelona’s “Figo Game” against Real Madrid in 2000—The Captain Class doesn’t just bring these events to life; it presents a fresh, counterintuitive take on leadership that can be applied to a wide spectrum of competitive disciplines from business and politics to science and the arts.
The men and women who make up the Captain Class were never the most skilled athletes, nor were they gifted orators or paragons of sportsmanship. They were often role players who were allergic to the spotlight and difficult to manage. In short, the seven attributes they shared challenge your assumptions of what inspired leadership looks like.