Pat Summitt received the Wooden Cup four years ago because she represented the highest and best values in sport. A great athlete, and a great coach, it was the values that undergirded who she was that made her one of the great role models of our time. Every player she coached at Tennessee graduated. No other coach can make that claim. Invite the members of your team to look her up on the Internet and plan to have a brief meeting later this week so that they can share what they have learned about her. What is it about her they most admire?
Not long ago LeBron James held a dinner at his house for the team. He stood up during the meal and systematically addressed each member of the team and told them why they were important to the team, and that if they all did their part a championship was possible. The Code says, “I will put team goals ahead of personal goals.” LeBron wanted to win a championship, but he knew he could only do that if everyone was fully committed. LeBron did not inspire his team to victory through brilliant play, although that certainly helped; more importantly, he had communicated that he needed each person, and had sent that message many times, not just at that dinner. Just as players play for the coach, and play to support a great leader, they also play to support each other. All are important. How can you make your team a better team? Are there issues that need to be addressed? How can that best be done? Are there individuals that you can speak to?
Draymond Green of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors was suspended for one game because he had collected his fourth flagrant foul in the post season. A flagrant foul is one which is excessive and in which a person could be injured. It is extremely rare for a flagrant foul to be accidental. Flagrant fouls represent a lack of self-control. Flagrant fouls, or the varying names by which they are called in other sports, usually result from frustration or anger. When the Code says “I will develop my skills to the best of my ability…” this means the mind as well as the body. How much time do you spend “developing” your mental strength? Each of us must do more than recognize the importance of the “mental game,” by spending time working on it. We can practice various situations mentally that could occur and then determine what our response will be. “If this… then…” “If this… then…” We need to make this a part of our off the field daily “practice.” Is there a way that you can discuss this and involve your teammates and work on this together?
Muhammad Ali was declared the “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated at the end of the last Century. He was the most recognized person in the world for many years. Yet his career began as a loud-mouthed upstart (the “Louisville Lip”) who angered the vast majority of white America for his brashness and lack of respect for the traditional social customs. He was perhaps the original trash-talker, at the least the first to make it a fine art. His words were often mean (“Sonny Liston is too ugly to be the Champion; he’s the ugliest man alive.”) He became a symbol of Black America’s changing identity in the 60’s, and his fight with Floyd Patterson (whom he called an “Uncle Tom”) symbolized the difference between two eras. Many were suspicious of his conversion to Islam. It took years for the public to realize that he was now driven by a desire for peace and reconciliation between all races, peoples and religions. As the years passed he took a larger and larger place on the world’s stage, and the stinging words of his youth became more and more words that spoke courageous truth that many did not want to hear. It took a lifetime, but those who reviled him slowly came to appreciate, admire and even love him. He did not begin by “respecting the dignity of every person,” but he ended up devoting his life to that purpose, and to giving his life for “the betterment of (his) community and world.” From a young man who threw his Olympic medal into the Ohio River out of anger over segregation, to the most beloved child of his city, to an Ambassador to the world, few people have had a greater impact on their eras. What are the most important lessons to learn from his life that you can make a part of yours? What are the ways in which you would like to grow?
On Memorial Day we remembered with gratitude those who gave their lives for this country. To give one’s life is the greatest sacrifice anyone can make. Our lives are shaped by our many commitments – such as to our family, work, team, faith, education, and country. At times we have to focus more on one commitment than another, so what is most important to you? Can you evaluate how much time and effort you put into your various commitments? Do you have the right proportions? What are the two or three most important things to you? What steps can you take to be sure your focus is where you most want it to be?
Both the Warriors and the Cavaliers have suffered big losses. NBA fans are waiting to see what is going to happen next. Losing is something that happens to every athlete in every sport, so responding to defeat is something that all athletes have to do. A common bit of wisdom is: “it’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.” But there’s more to it than that. The real issue is not whether you get back up, but what do you do after you get up? What caused the defeat? Was it simply a better opponent? But even so, could you have done better? What areas should you work on to improve? Did your will and determination fade? Will you ask your coach and your teammates how they think you could best improve? What short term goals can you now set for yourself? To reach our full potential we all have to ask ourselves these difficult questions and determine our next steps. And don’t forget: even if you win, it’s no different: you should ask yourself the same hard questions, and continually be setting new goals for yourself.
One of the general complaints about almost all politicians in all parties is that they often say things that they think people want to hear, rather than what they really believe. They do this because they want to be liked, and/or they want to be elected. The Code says “I will conduct myself with caring and honorable behavior off the field…” We all know that there are times when we say things – and times when we are silent – because we want to be liked. It takes courage to do the difficult thing, and there are few things more difficult than saying something you believe, with which others disagree. Are there some issues with your team that should be talked about? Or your school? Is it hard to discuss them because not everyone will agree? What can you do about this?
Gatorade has a commercial which reveals the fact that over the years Peyton Manning has written countless personal letters to people to let them know that he was thinking about them with gratitude for their friendship, sorrow in a time of loss, or appreciation for what they meant to him. The Code says “I will be a positive influence on the relationships on the team,” and it also says, “I will conduct myself with honor…” Peyton did not have to write these notes, obviously; he did it because he wanted to let others know he cared about them and was grateful for them. Few people actually write letters any more, communicating as we do, electronically, which makes his efforts even the more remarkable. How can his practice become a model for you? When was the last time you thanked a teammate or a coach? What is it that prevents you from sending out an email today to let someone special to you know they are special? What can you learn from Peyton?
- Here’s a link to the commercial: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYHB_K45JmFqWQ08GKdJ16e09M5aHEZSl
When he was in high school Luke Romick learned about the Thirst Project, which is an organization that digs wells in Third World countries, primarily in Africa. It inspired him – so much that he raised the money to go to Los Angeles after his first year of college and volunteer for the organization. He returned to his college, Denison, and started a student organization there to raise money and support the Thirst Project. He continued to build that organization throughout his college years and is now preparing to work for the organization. In your opinion, what are the most important needs in your community, your state, and the world? Is there any way that you can make a difference in these areas? What might be one thing you would like to do? Can you encourage others to join you? Remember the Code says, “I will give of my time, skills and money as I am able for the betterment of my community and world.”
Major League baseball recognizes the importance of Jackie Robinson’s life, example, and extraordinary courage in the struggle for racial equality each year. As he endured the jeers and insults of fans day after day, there was one afternoon in particular when some fans were taunting him in especially ugly terms. At a critical moment in the midst of it all, the Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese went over to Robinson and put his arm around him, sending a direct signal to everyone. It was a gesture that spoke volumes. Can you identify more with Jackie or Pee Wee? Or, are you in the stands heckling? The Code says, “I will respect the dignity of every person…” How does this apply to your life?