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?”
It appears that the entire Russian team may be barred from the Olympics, not just the track team, for using illegal drugs to gain a competitive advantage. What does this have to do with the Code? The Code says, “I will play within the letter and the spirit of the rules of my sport.” Winning at all costs seems to have been the goal of the officials in Russia. It is difficult to know whether individual athletes were encouraged to cheat, or required to cheat. But it is important to recognize the consequences of cheating. The obvious consequence is that they have been banned and publicly embarrassed. The more important consequence of cheating is the damage this does to the individual, whether exposed or not. There is no real victory won by cheating. The person who cheats knows they did, that they were not the best that day, and their own sense of integrity is damaged. We recently talked to a young athlete whose soccer coach encouraged him to “flop” (as is also done in basketball) hoping to draw a whistle on the opposition. This is a form of cheating. Rules can be broken in every sport, but there can be no real victory, when we know our victory is hollow. The greatest victory always comes when we play our best, whether we win or lose. As a competitive tennis player, I always felt better when I played my best and lost, than when I played poorly and won. The true measurement of our competition is the satisfaction that comes from within, from doing our best, and from the joy of playing a game we love, regardless of the score. Do you agree with this? In your sport, when are the times that you have felt your best? When are the times you have felt the worst? What would you say to someone who encourages you to break the rules to gain an advantage?
Who is the greatest player not to have a “victory” celebration retirement? And why not? Here’s part of the story of Tim Duncan taken from Yahoo sports:
San Antonio Spurs big man Tim Duncan, a five-time NBA champion, two-time Most Valuable Player and three-time NBA Finals MVP regarded by many as the greatest power forward of all time, announced Monday morning that he is retiring after 19 seasons in which he defined consistent brilliance and served as the cornerstone of the Spurs’ rise into the model NBA franchise.
Well, technically, he didn’t announce anything. The news came down, quietly, in a Spurs press release trumpeting the team’s sterling record since Duncan’s arrival out of Wake Forest with the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NBA draft: a 1,072-438 regular-season record, a .710 winning percentage, the best 19-year run in NBA history, the highest-such mark in any of the four major American professional sports over the duration of Duncan’s career. The release features no quotes from Duncan himself, which would be the most Tim Duncan thing of all time if not for this kicker:
The 40-year-old made 15 All-Star appearances, 15 All-NBA teams (including 10 appearances on the First Team) and 15 All-Defensive Teams (eight First Team) in his illustrious career; the All-NBA and All-Defensive berths are the most in league history. He is the Spurs’ record book, topping San Antonio’s franchise history in virtually every significant category.
He retires in the top 10 in NBA history in regular-season games and minutes played, offensive, defensive and total rebounds, and blocked shots, and 14th on the all-time scoring list with 26,496 points. The list of players to total 26,000 points, 15,000 rebounds and 3,000 blocks is two names long: Duncan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
So: what can you learn from Duncan’s example? In what ways does he best exemplify the Code? What trait do you most admire?
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?