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.
There have been a number of injuries recently in our national headlines. Nothing can be more devastating to a team than an injury to a key player. How each person responds to the loss of an important teammate is critical. The Code says, “I will be a positive influence on the relationships on the team.” Some teams lose energy and momentum – they have the wind knocked out of them. Other teams become more determined, determined to overcome the obstacle that is before them. Injuries are a test of character and leadership: it takes the determination that is not just words, but actions for a team to rally and find the energy to push themselves even harder than before the injury. We often think we are “doing our best,” but can be surprised when we discover a new level of commitment to the team and to our own best efforts. Are there any injuries on your team? Have there been any in the past? How have you responded in the past and/or how are you responding now? Do you think you and your team are mentally strong?
Wednesday (today) is Roberto Clemente Day in Major League baseball. Clemente was by far one of the greatest and most exciting players of his generation. Statistics do not tell the story of this great person, loved by all, and admired by all. That love and admiration was because of who he was as a person and how he played the game. Off the field, he was known as a great humanitarian who was tireless in his efforts for his native Puerto Rico, Latin America and the Caribbean. He died in a small plane crash while delivering supplies to Nicaragua after an earthquake. The award in major league baseball for the person who does the most for others off the field is the Clemente Award. What baseball players do you know who make the greatest difference? “I will give of my time, skills and money as I am able for the betterment of my community and world.” Can you do something in honor of Roberto Clemente?
The big discussion this week has been about Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the National Anthem because of his belief that our country has not being doing enough about the issue of race. No one disputes that racism exists, and no one disputes Kaepernick’s right to express himself – it’s one of the reasons to stand for the anthem! The debate is whether what he is doing is appropriate, whether it should be allowed by his team, or the NFL, etc. We are not going to take sides on this issue – but we are going to assume that most teams are going to have those who agree and those who disagree with Kaepernick, just as there will be those who support Clinton and those who support Trump. Is it possible to talk to others and to listen to the reasons why they hold their opinion? Is it possible to understand their point of view – really understand it – so that we can see the value that stands behind what they are saying? The Code says, “I will respect the dignity of every human being…” and “I will be a positive influence on the other relationships on the team.” It’s easy to put people into boxes, or categories; it’s one of the gimmicks the media uses to stir things up. It’s always more difficult to see the world from the point of view of the person with whom we disagree, and to be a positive influence when strong opinions are held by many. Are you open to those challenges?
There have been a number of memorable stories from the Olympics the past two weeks. Let’s end them by remembering two incidents which show athletes acknowledging that some things are bigger than the game as they stop what they are doing to honor the national anthem.
First, you can see this US pole vaulter stop his attempt as he’s running:
Similarly, Usain Bolt stops doing an interview mid-interview for the US national anthem:
We think Usain Bolt, who at times seems self-centered to many, reveals much more about who he is in this moment.
In all of our efforts we can and should be “Winning More Than The Game!”
Uber driver Ellis Hill had a passenger, Liz Willock, who said she knew an Olympic swimmer. Hill said his son was a shot putter on the US team. When Willock learned that he couldn’t afford to go see his son compete because of the expense, she volunteered to raise the money to get him there. She set up an account on GoFundMe and within two days the funds had been raised from over 150 people. The Code says, “I will give of my time, skills, and money as I am able for the betterment of my community and world.” Is there a need in your community that no one is doing anything about? Is there anything you can do?
After the US women’s soccer team lost, the goalie Hope Solo called the opposing team “cowards.” Presumably, by this she meant that she did not like the fact that they had played a defensive game as a strategy for winning. And they did win, so it was a good strategy on their part. Women’s soccer has been such a positive force in this country that it is too bad its reputation is tarnished on such an important stage by such an unsportsmanlike comment. What does the Code say about this? Would people say you are a good loser or a bad loser?
As the Olympics begin, we do well to recall the “Olympic spirit” – what is it? A starting place could be the Olympic creed:
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
But there is more than just the creed. The Olympic Games give us the chance to celebrate our shared humanity, to build bonds of friendship and love between peoples and nations. The games are one of the few arenas where all nations come together with a common focus, and where all of the participants represent their countries not in political or economic roles, but as citizens. This is what the Olympic Games are really about, and some might say it’s what life is really about as well. What do you think? How would you define the Olympic spirit? What are some examples of it? In what ways is the Code for Living a reflection of that spirit?
Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey were inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame last weekend. Both gave emotional speeches. Griffey, with tears in his eyes, remembered that he never would have made it without the unconditional support of his father. In the same way, Piazza, referring to all of the other Hall of Famers present said, “Nobody gets to the Hall of Fame alone,” Piazza said. “Nobody on this stage with me got here without teammates, community support and mentors. We all have a responsibility to future generations.”
The Code says, “I will be a positive influence on the relationships on the team.” It is that positive encouragement that helped both men fulfill their potential. How many of your team members have you encouraged? To encourage someone is far more than acknowledging a good play from time to time. What are some ways that you can be more of an “encourager?”