Tom Herman has recently resigned as the Houston Cougars football coach to go to the Texas Longhorns – before the season was over. Herman has been one of the most successful coaches in recent years, and has been admired for the values he has espoused for his team: honesty, integrity, etc. Unfortunately, he has shown those values to be empty words, as he was talking to Texas while saying he wasn’t, and by preaching loyalty while abandoning the team at the very moment it is supposed to be preparing for a bowl game. Not only is he abandoning the team, but he is taking six assistant coaches with him! How is the team to prepare? It is hard to imagine a more shameless and reprehensible departure. It turns out, as we research him, that his middle name is Judas, a name synonymous with betrayal. Texas would have gladly waited until after the bowl game to get Herman, so this is not about money or anything else: this is about honor and integrity, or the lack thereof. The Code says, “I will display caring and honorable behavior off the field…” What other leaders have disappointed you? What would you have done?
We’re not sure who invented the idea of “Giving Tuesday,” but it was probably a response to all the money that was being spent on “Black Friday,” and more recently, “Cyber Monday.” Does the Code have anything to say about this? The Code says, “I will give of my time, skills and money as I am able for the betterment of my community and world.” Giving money is important, because money is so important to us. Most of us think donating $10 or $100 is a lot of money, unless we’re spending it to go to a movie or buying new clothes for ourselves! “Giving Tuesday” provides us an opportunity not just to donate to some charities of our choice, but to step back and ask ourselves how we can also give our “time and our skills” for the betterment of our community and world. We all want to be “Athletes for a Better World!”
In the Sprint Championship on Sunday Carl Edwards was leading with ten laps to go. Joey Logano was behind him and about to pass him on the inside. Edwards moved over to block Logano (a normal move) but the result was a wreck in which Edwards car was eliminated. Here’s the description from USA Today:
“What Edwards did next will be replayed for years — decades, maybe. And it should get the attention of the sports world beyond just NASCAR.
Instead of storming off or starting a fight or hiding or blaming someone else or pouting about what was undoubtedly one of the most disappointing moments of his life, Edwards responded with pure class.
He walked down pit road, climbed up on Logano’s pit box and shook hands with Logano crew chief Todd Gordon.”
The Code says, “I will display caring and honorable behavior both on and off the field and be a positive influence…” What are the best examples of good sportsmanship you’ve seen in the games you’ve played?
There are numerous forest fires in North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee burning and will continue to burn for the foreseeable future because of the severe drought. Yesterday, we went over to volunteer at a fire department (not to fight fires but to support those who are). While unloading supplies with a fireman from another district, he said that every morning when he gets up to drive over there are a “bunch of drinks, food, and stuff” on his porch or beside his garage that have been left anonymously by friends “who know I’m coming over here.” Why did he share that story? We think that the most important message is not the actual gifts, although that is important, but the encouragement that those gifts gave, and the support that they symbolized for him as he went about this job. We may not be literally fighting fires, but we all know people who are struggling with something in their lives. How can we “be a positive influence in the relationships” (as the Code says) we have? There is no greater gift than support and encouragement.
We all want what we want, but only a dictator gets to do everything he or she wants. Unfortunately (or fortunately), democracy is more like a team sport, with different individuals with different agendas learning how to play together in order to succeed! This is a good example of how sports are a great laboratory for learning how to live off the playing field! After Tuesday’s election is over, about half of the country will be unhappy with the results. What does the Code have to say about this? We think the Code’s tenets speak to us in many ways: as individuals, as members of the team, and as members of our country. The truth is that we are all on our National Team… Which tenet is the most challenging to you – doing your best when you don’t care? Respecting those who differ? As individuals, how can we be become more informed and better team members by listening to those who differ from us? As team members, how can we help the team come together and improve, even if we disagree with the strategy? Are we willing to give the same effort and sacrifice for the sake of our country as we are for our team?
Politics is all about different people wanting different things. This happens all the time on our teams: a person wants to play one position, but the coach wants him or her to play a different position; one person wants one kind of offense, another wants something different; one person wants the practice to focus on one thing, someone else thinks it should focus on something else! What are the “political” issues that are on your team? Does the Code say anything about this? The Code says, “I will put team goals ahead of personal goals.” It also says, “I will follow the team rules established by the coach,” and “I will be a positive influence on the relationships on the team.” Which of these tenets best applies to your team and your situation? Is there a way for you to discuss this with your team members and/or your coach?
On Sunday night the kickers for both the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks missed “easy” field goals which would have given their teams victory – and so the game ended in a tie. We have all missed “easy” opportunities in whatever sport we play. The greatest players in the world all “fail” at one time or another, but this does not mean they are failures. What do we say to our teammates when one of them misses an easy opportunity? What would we like for them to say to us, when we do? The Code says, “I will be a positive influence on the other relationships on the team.” What does this mean in this situation? Are you prepared for this situation to happen to you or a teammate?
On her television show Ellen DeGeneres recently surprised one of her audience members, Amber Thomas, a student at Boston University. Ellen called her down because she knew that Amber was working 70 hours a week to support herself as a student. After giving her a few small gifts, Ellen presented her with a check for $25,000 to pay off her student debt. Ellen often does these “random acts of kindness” (as Oprah used to do on her show). We are tempted to say “it’s easy for Ellen to do that, she has so much money,” and to move on in our life. The question, however, is different: what can we do to make a difference in the lives of others? We read stories about young people who rake the leaves of an elderly neighbor, or paint a fence, or help someone in other ways. The Code says, “I will give of my time, skills and money as I am able for the betterment of my community and world.” How are you able? How is your team able?
What does the expression “locker room talk” mean to you? We think it refers to words and conversations that one would say in private, but would never want to be repeated in public. It is as if the locker room were some sort of “off limits” place where the normal rules of behavior would not apply. All of us have said things privately that we would not want to be known publicly. All of us have laughed at jokes that were told at someone else’s expense, that we would not want others to know about. As children one of the first things we were taught was not to call other people names – but it was a lesson not easily learned. The challenge for each of us in growing up is to become better people. The Code says, “I will respect the dignity of every human being…” To respect others is the right thing to do; there should be no difference between our private and our public words or actions. It is to give to others the respect we would like to be shown ourselves – whether it is returned or not. We face this challenge in many ways in our lives. What can you do when you hear people talking about others? What can you say when you hear a joke made at someone else’s expense? Can you talk about this as a team?
Two wonderful men died Sunday: one young, one old. Rory McIlroy probably said it best when he said of Arnold Palmer: “No one has ever done more for any sport than Arnold did for golf.” We tried to think of what others have meant to their sports, Babe Ruth, for example, but had to agree with Rory. Arnold was a great champion and a great human being. It is hard to think of a better role model, a more generous person, or a person who genuinely loved others more than Arnold. People who do not remember as far back as the 60s will not realize how he revolutionized the popularity of golf, and unlike most sports heroes, became a person everyone loved. Jose Fernandez was at the beginning of his career. He was loved by all his teammates in a way that was contagious – everyone loved him because he played the game with such joy, and as so many have said, because he was “like a kid playing his favorite game.” The passing of both of these men remind us that our time is limited, and that we can look to what these men meant to others, and let them be role models for us. Invite your team to take a minute and reflect on what they can learn from these two lives.