Justin Wilson was an IndyCar driver who was killed by flying debris at Pocono Raceway this past weekend. He will literally live on, however. He donated six vital organs to others which will change their lives. What a great example of making a difference in the lives of others – of those you will never know! And how easy it was – all any of us has to do is check “organ donor” when we renew our driver’s license. We all know the Code encourages us to give of our “time, skills and money as I am able for the betterment of my community and world.” We hope you will expand that to include the “skill” of checking the organ donor box. Discuss with your team how many are currently organ donors.
There have been several fights on professional football teams as players compete to earn a position on the team. The Rams and the Giants had a brawl, and the Jets quarterback suffered a broken jaw. What does the Code say about this? Obviously, fighting is against the rules, and the Code says, “I will compete within the spirit and the letter of the rules of my sport.” This raises two important issues. First, the issue of self-control. We prove our toughness, competitiveness, energy, commitment, desire – all those important words – by how we play. Maintaining our composure and the ability “to keep our heads when all about us are losing theirs” are as important as any of the other skills in our sport. Losing control of our emotions will guarantee a penalty that may cost us the game, or even worse, in the case of the N. Y. Jets. The larger issue is the “spirit” of the rules. It requires great self-discipline and mental toughness to resist the temptation to skirt the rules when things are not going our way. When have you been tempted to call others names, or to resort to playing “dirty,” or to let your emotions get the best of you? What can you do to maintain your self-control?
Ray Rice is asking to be given the opportunity to play football again in the NFL. We all saw the video of him dragging his unconscious fiancée, now wife, from the elevator. He became the poster boy for domestic violence. He says he is repentant, has learned his lesson, knows he made the biggest mistake of his life, and would like to be given the opportunity to play again. What do you think? The Code says that “I will take responsibility and appropriate actions when I fail…” – has he done that? What would appropriate actions look like to you? If he did them, would you be willing to allow him to play again? What would happen if this were an employee of a company? Would your position be the same? Are there some actions that people take that are unforgivable? How about your team – are there some violations that result in being kicked off the team? Is that permanent, or for one year? Is there a difference between your age and that of professional athletes?
It’s old news now, but we wanted to remember what happened at the end of the women’s World Cup championship. When Abby Wambach came on to the field at the 79th minute, Carli Lloyd took off the Captain’s armband and gave it Abby to put on. Abby has been a part of US Women’s soccer for so long, so for Carli it was an obvious thing to do: “ I wanted to make sure she put the armband on because she deserves it. She has been legendary to this team. She’s been unbelievable. I’m so thankful I can call her my friend, my teammate, and I’m just so proud her last World Cup she could go out strong.” But the passing of the band wasn’t complete. When the final whistle blew, Wambach found Rampone—the only player on this squad from the 1999 championship team—and insisted she wear it for the celebration and trophy presentation. “She’s my captain, always will be,” Wambach said. “I think it’s pretty symbolic that a team that was able to come away with a world championship wants to pass off the attention from one person to another. Carli hands it to me, I hand it to Christie. That is what it takes to win a world championship.”
The Code says “I will put team goals ahead of personal goals.” It also says, “I will be a positive influence on the relationships on the team.” Both of these tenets of the Code are represented by the actions of these teammates, and it is that kind of respect and commitment to one another that is essential for any team to be successful. What are some ways that you can think of to demonstrate your commitment to your teammates? How can you help others to find that same level of commitment?
For many athletes the summer provides an opportunity to work on a skill or to concentrate on one aspect of a sport. It’s also a good time to think about our own character development as individuals. Read over the Code again. Ask yourself: what is the one tenet that I need to work on most? Ask: What is one tenet that I think my team needs to work on? But don’t just think about it – determine some steps you can take, measurable steps, to work toward that goal. So, as you practice your skill, think about the other ways you are growing and improving as a person, a teammate, and a member of your community.
We’ve seen tennis, hockey and basketball championships won in the past few days. In what ways have you seen the Code reflected in each of these sports? Did you learn anything in watching the contests you watched? Either in winning or losing efforts, during play or after, what are the moments you remember that represented the best in sports? When Djokovic lost the French open, he spoke to the crowd a few minutes afterwards. Everyone knew he wanted to win to complete the Grand Slam. Speaking in French, the opening words he said to the crowd were certainly unexpected and so very gracious, “There are some things more important than winning, and one is when you have an opponent like Stan (Wawrinka).” What a tribute. What would your opponents say about you?
The only thing more shameful than the Pentagon paying the NFL millions of dollars to put on patriotic events at football games is the NFL accepting the money. This is so shameful that it is hard to know where to begin. Did the owners know this? Did they really need the money? Why was this all kept a secret? More than anything that we can think of this story represents a complete loss of any value other than money. The Code for Living says, “I will conduct myself with caring and honorable behavior…” Ask your team to discuss this issue and to list their thoughts. For what positive reasons would the Pentagon have wanted to pay for these patriotic events? Does this change your opinion?
FIFA, it now turns out, paid seven million dollars to the Irish soccer federation so they would not contest a bad call in a World Cup qualifying game. Again, is there any value other than money? Fearfully, this is probably only the beginning of the stories we will hear from FIFA.
It is tragic that the good, generous, caring and honorable lives led by the overwhelming majority of athletes and others involved in sports are so easily overshadowed by the actions of a few. These stories, however, point to the insidious evil of greed which has so overtaken our society, and of the need of those in positions of leadership to develop the character of those in their trust – as well as their own.
In talking about some of the racial challenges in Cleveland LeBron James recognized some of the opportunities that sports provide. He said:
“Sports in general, no matter what city it is, something that’s going through a city that’s very dramatic, traumatizing or anything of that case, I think sports is one of the biggest healers in helping a city out,” James said.
“Sports just does something to people, either if you’re a player, if you’re a fan, if you just have something that has anything to do with that city, you just feel a certain way about rooting for a team that you love that can get your mind off some of the hardships that may be going on throughout your life or in that particular time period. It just does that.”
The Code begins with “Because I am a role model and have the opportunity and responsibility to make a difference in the lives of others I commit to this Code.”
We may not often think of it, but a five year old playing soccer can bring joy to an aging grandparent, a high school game can be the one thing that brings a small rural town together on a regular basis, or Nelson Mandela can use a rugby team to unify his nation. What are other examples you can think of where sports have made a difference in your life or in others’?
The Code says, “I will take responsibility and appropriate actions when I fail…” There is no question that cheating occurred: 11 out of 12 footballs were deflated. Why not all 12? Because the kickers like their ball fully inflated. There is no question among reasonable people that Brady knew what happened – any good middle school athlete can tell if a football, basketball, or tennis ball is deflated. The biggest disgrace is that the owner has not taken responsibility for his team. Robert Kraft should say at a minimum: “Someone in our organization deflated the balls. This is regrettable, and so we will accept the consequences.” In the face of such denial of responsibility, rather than suspend Brady, do you think the NFL should have suspended the entire team – have the team forfeit one or more games? Should anyone on the Patriots ever admit that cheating occurred? Who do you think is most responsible? Should the equipment personnel who texted about deflating the balls be fired?
Maddy Buckley is an All American soccer player and a member of the Division III 2013 National Champion William Smith team. But more important to Maddy is the B+ she has written on the back of her hand every day since high school. It reminds her of a young man who died from leukemia and whose blood type was B Positive. She has written that to help her to remember to “be positive” every day, and to look for opportunities to make a difference. She has raised thousands for the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, spearheaded her team Impact program (that partners young people with life threatening illnesses with teams), and led in numerous other community efforts. The Code says “I will give of my time, skills and money as I am able for the betterment of my community and world.” What is one way you would like to make your community or world better? Is it something that you can encourage your team to join in with you?