Hickok takes leadership role to Dartmouth captaincy

If they say the best come to those who wait, then James Hickok is ready to have a successful season as goalie for the Dartmouth mens soccer team this fall.

Patiently biding his time behind another talented goalkeeper, Hickok — a senior who served as alternate captain despite spending man y games on the bench in 2015 — will captain the Big Green this term. The 2013 Staples graduate has posted sparkling statistics when given the opportunity to start between the pipes: he has five shutouts in 18 games with a 1.17 goals against average.

But with two capable goalies for one starting position, Hickok split time as a freshman with Stefan Cleveland, a sophomore at the time. Cleveland would go on to be first team All-Ivy League as both a junior and senior while Hickok appeared in five games each season.

Through his Hall of Fame level performance through the Westport youth ranks and at Staples High, Hickok wasn’t used to playing second fiddle.

“Honestly by far that was the biggest turning point in my life soccer wise,” Hickok said. “It helped me develop maturity and patience, and made me step back and find the bigger picture. It was hard at first; freshman year we split time; sitting a few games in a row as a sophomore you realize what’s going on.”

Hickok and Cleveland remained friends through the process and now Hickok is ready to possibly play in as many games as a senior as he did the first three years combined.

“I think there’s always a battle a little bit, you always want to two good ones,” said Dartmouth coach Chad Riley. “(Hickok) wasn’t the starter, but he has played in 20 games in three years; that’s a lot of experience. It’s always a good problem to have and I think he’s ready to assume that role.

Hickok was part of one of the most successful runs in recent memory at Staples, winning a pair of FCIAC titles (2009, 2010) and a Class LL state championship in 2009. He started for three seasons and was named All-New England as a senior in addition to being named NSCAA Scholar All-American.

Leadership has long been engrained in Hickok’s ethos - he was a two-time captain at Staples in addition to his run at Dartmouth - though it wasn’t established overnight.

“It came from a few diff places,” Hickok said. “The first people I think of is my parents; I was raised to treat people with respect, and that’s is the first level of becoming a leader. I think it developed more in high school; I had a talented group of older guys who pulled me along and a few goalie coaches on the way.”

Due to restrictions that only apply to Ivy League schools, offseason practices are few and far between. That forces the team’s elder statesman - to set up workouts and ensure the entire team is on the same page.

That responsibility has fallen on Hickok this season.

“I think we’ve always known he had leadership potential,” Riley said. “Last year we made him assistant captain and he really continued that on; it took a year to really learn it. But starting this spring with setting up the workouts; he’s just a good well respected level kid.”

An economics major at the school, Hickok spent his summer interning at UBS in New York City.

Dartmouth went 12-6-1 last season and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Green Wave have high hopes of making a deep run and possibly compete for a national title with Hickok between the goalposts.

“We only lose two starters which is absolutely exciting,” Hickok said. “Everyone is excited; our goal is to win the Ivy League and reach the final four. We’re getting close; we all know there’s another level that we can achieve.”

And after that?

“I’m not sure right now,” Hickok said. “I’ve been thinking about taking up soccer after school. I’m on the fence; I’ll take some time to find a team; it’s not unheard of. We’ve had three-to-five guys playing professionally playing in the last couple of years. It’s certainly an option.”

Any club would be fortunate to add Hickok’s leadership qualities to its stable.