The Code says, “I will put team goals ahead of personal goals.” The real story of the Super Bowl was the Broncos defense. It’s important to remember that teams win team sports – individuals do not. Individuals may play well, and they must if the team is to win, but it is always true that teams win team sports. And, more often than not, it is the team with the better defense that wins. The glory, of course, tends to go to the best offensive players in all sports, but their winning is dependent on far more than their abilities. As individuals it is our task to “develop our skills to the best of our ability and to give our best effort in practice and in competition” but one of the most important skills is figuring out not how we can fulfill our potential as a player, but how we can fulfill our potential as a teammate. Ask the members of your team to think about their weaknesses as a team and how they can together work to overcome them. What can each person do to make the team stronger?
After the AFC Championship game was over, Tom Brady sought out Broncos running back CJ Anderson to congratulate him on his team’s win. Anderson sent out the following message on Instagram:
“I know a lot of people hate this man but man when he was pick 199 and was over look he inspired me I was undrafted and over came all the odds so bless what he told me at the end of this game. He said “CJ way to fight and prove everybody wrong you belong in this league and your one hell of a player I love the way you run keep climbing to be great” those words meant so much growing up watching Tom overcame I’m proud to say I’m 3-2 vs his teams and proud to say I get to battle him every year. Thanks Tom for telling me those words they will stick and I know a lot of people don’t like you but I have MAD RESPECT. Thanks I see you overcome as others in this league and now it’s my turn.”
We so easily can see the taunting that goes on between players, but we rarely see the respect and admiration that most have for their opponents. This is an example of true class and sportsmanship that should be all we see. In this same spirit were Peyton Manning’s words to Belicheck, “This may be my last rodeo, but it’s been a pleasure.” Both are examples of “Winning More Than The Game.”
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Cam Newton has been in the news again this week for his “showboating” behaviors. He likes to indicate “first down,” when they are made, and has a variety of other “moves” when touchdowns and big plays are made. Is this just youthful exuberance? Or is it just classless showboating? Cam’s defenders will talk about how he works in the community or seeks out a young kid to give the ball to after each touchdown, and so on. What do you think?
The Code says, “I will respect… every human being…and will not be abusive or dehumanizing of another.” Does this apply here? Our opinion is that Cam doesn’t mean to offend – he doesn’t mean to hurt others, he is just having fun. But when one person’s fun makes another person hurt or angry, it’s no longer fun. It is abusive. There is a difference between good-natured fun, teasing, and the line that is crossed when that is not the experience of the other. Cam would do well to learn that – indicating a first down is fun to him, but surely he does not like it when he is sacked and has to watch an opposing lineman demonstrate all his macho prowess over him. There’s nothing noble about any of it, which is why you won’t see Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning, or Tom Brady – to name just three – doing any of it.
Deshaun Watson is the quarterback for the Clemson football team which almost defeated Alabama for the national title. College teams all have a bye week during the fall, and when it is Clemson’s bye week they have a tradition of giving up one day to work on a Habitat for Humanity house. Deshaun Watson grew up in a Habitat house, and so when they went to work on one he spoke to the person in charge and said he would like to do more. The result has been that he has become the face of Habitat in that area of South Carolina, speaking to groups, especially children about the opportunities that having a home will give them. He knows the difference that hope for the future can make, and he wants to do his part to inspire young people. We all can “do more.” What is an area that your team could do more? What is an area of interest to you in which you can do more? The Code says “I will give of my time, skills and money as I am able for the better of my community and world.” Like Deshaun, we are all able!
Most people make New Year’s resolutions – and most people give up on them within a short period of time. Why? It’s usually because they are too difficult to achieve, and so they give up. The secret to improving in anything is by creating short term achievable goals, which lead to long term greater goals. When Lee Iacocca was the Chairman of Chrysler, he would take time every Sunday night to make a list of things he wanted to accomplish that week. Where are you in your sport? The Code says, “I will develop my skills to the best of my ability…” Do you have short term goals that you are working on and achieving? Why not take five minutes additional each day for one week to work on one skill?
Serena Williams is Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsperson of the Year.” At age 34 she dominated women’s tennis by winning the first three legs of the Grand Slam, finally losing in the US Open. She has been a force for women’s tennis for over 15 years and stands one victory short of the record number of Grand Slam wins. She is the first female black athlete to win the award. The title she has won also carries with it the assumption that the recipient has exhibited the highest standards of behavior both on and off the court. She has grown in many ways as a player and a person over her long career, and we believe that she is deserving of the honor. But, what does your team think? We suggest that team members read the story and then report to the others what they have learned about her, especially the story of her experience at Indian Wells, and her response to it. That story reveals a person deserving of this high honor. However, we were disappointed in the picture on the cover. What does that say about the way women are perceived, or about how they are valued? What do you think?
Has your team planned to do anything for others this season? What about joining with another team, boys and girls, football and softball, volleyball and baseball – or even more than one other team? We should never be too “busy” to help another, and this is a great time of the year to join together and feed the hungry, buy toys for needy kids, or have a fundraiser for a local charity. What ideas do you have, or do others have? “I will give of my time, skills and money as I am able for the betterment of my community and world.”
NASCAR great Jeff Gordon has just retired, and NBA star Kobe Bryant has announced his retirement at the end of this season. As athletes, both are giants in their sport. But what is your assessment of them as individuals, role models, teammates, and as citizens? In what ways do they live out, or not live out, the Code for Living? Ask your team to share their thoughts on both athletes. Most will probably be unfamiliar with their work in their communities, so invite or assign one or two to look them up on the internet and report what they discover. Did you know Jeff Gordon, for example, has a foundation dedicated to childhood cancer research and has a hospital named for him? Ask your team, “how would you like to be remembered?” What are some steps you can take now along that road?
The first Thanksgiving, we all learned in school, was held between the Pilgrims and the native Americans. Today the use of the word “Redskin” is a political and social lightning rod, like the Confederate flag. Further, there are students at Princeton University who want to remove the name of President Woodrow Wilson from the graduate school of Diplomacy because he held clearly racist views. Is it possible to discuss our differences about these issues, or are they too political, too controversial? How can we examine them in a way that is open and fair? How can we treasure the freedoms and blessings we enjoy, and at the same time respect the voices that differ from ours? How do we respect the dignity of those who differ most from us? How can our teams face these controversies in a positive way and make a difference in our schools?