Victor Dubuisson is one of the young rising golf stars, a Frenchman who is now ranked 23rd in the world. His father was a professional basketball player, but he says that it was watching Tiger Woods win the 1997 Masters Championship that inspired him – before his seventh birthday – to take up golf.
Ask your team or your teammates: when you think back in your life, who were the people who inspired you to take up a sport, or to want to become the best you could be in that sport? Was it a family member, a teammate or friend, or someone you watched on TV like young Victor Dubuisson?
We are all role models for others, almost always in ways in which we are as unaware of as Tiger was when he played in Augusta and was watched by a young man in Cannes. As the Code says, we do “have the opportunity and responsibility to make a difference in the lives of others.” Are you taking advantage of that opportunity? Remember: you are a role model and you will probably never know the ways you influence others.
Shaun White, Bode Miller, the hockey team, the ice skater who fell down and then got up and finished the program – you add your favorite story — each day there is another wonderful story about courage, persistence, victory, disappointment and defeat. Along with countless athletes we’ve never heard of who have trained for years in sports we can’t play or really understand – if we’ve even heard of them ! Take a few minutes and ask your team: How would you describe the spirit of what you have seen? In what ways is it similar to the world of sport you know? In what ways is it different? What can you learn from these games that can make you a better person? Are these Olympics an example of “Winning More Than The Game?”
Those watching the Olympics are seeing many stories of what it is to be a part of a team, and to compete not for yourself but for your team and country. Even though most of the events are individual events, in which teammates compete against each other as well as against other countries, the beauty of seeing everyone rooting for everyone else is striking.
The Olympic Creed reads: “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.”
Do you believe that? Why do we play sports, anyway? We play them because they are fun – because they give us an opportunity to develop our skills, to play with others and to compete against others. When we compete we get to test our skills against an opponent, and to learn from that experience. We learn many things along the way about discipline, teamwork, success and failure. We learn to accept our weaknesses and to know our strengths.
How does the Code and the ABW motto “Winning More Than The Game” reflect the goals of the Olympic Creed? Which of the tenets of the Code are most important to you?
Russell Wilson said his Dad asked him many times growing up, “why not you?” That was the basis for his question and challenge to his teammates at the beginning of the season, “why not us?” Those who did not know Wilson before Sunday had to be pleased to see a second year quarterback talking about “us” and not “me,” being appreciative of the his coaches and the fans, everyone except himself. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning was reportedly staying late, signing autographs, bitterly disappointed in the result, but nevertheless thinking of others. No matter which team you rooted for, we all can agree that both of these men represent the best in sports, and ask ourselves, “how can I be more like them?”
Richard Sherman’s trash-talking rant after the Seahawks game brings this form of communication back into the news. Trash talking is not new. The man who called himself “The Greatest” before others did (Ali), also made an art-form of trash-talking fifty years ago. He did it in long humorous poems that he recited before his matches, and he did it in rants and sound bites (“Sonny Liston is too ugly to be the Champion. Look at me, I’m beautiful.”). What’s the difference between friendly banter and inappropriate trash talking? The Code says “I will respect the dignity of every human being…” A simple test is whether a person is trying to make him or herself better by putting someone else down. It is never appropriate to exalt ourselves by putting others down. A wonderful example was set by Serena Williams in her loss in the Australian Open. Her trainer immediately said she was suffering from a bad back. Serena, however, said she was disappointed that she had not played better, but that it was not her back – “give her credit,” she said of her opponent, “she played well.” Perhaps, someday, Richard Sherman will have learned that rather than say, “a mediocre receiver will always get beat by a great corner back,” people would have greater admiration for him if he had said, “Crabtree is a great receiver; I’m just glad that I was able to make the play that won the game.” In his senior years, even Ali has mellowed and matured.
The NFL playoffs have featured bitter cold, torrential rain, and wind. The Australian Open (tennis) has had several days with the temperature well over 100 degrees, conditions called “inhumane.” The question this week is: how do we deal with adversity? There is nothing more true than the fact that we all will face adversity – in sports and in life – and how we face it, and deal with it, will determine the outcome of our lives. The Code says, “I will give my best effort…” How easy it is to say that! Determination and the will to persevere are only the result of habits that we must cultivate day in and day out. We must look for small obstacles to overcome so that we can build up that “mental toughness” that is easy to talk about, but only comes as the result of daily challenges met. Remember the words of Winston Churchill in the darkest days of World War II, when he described what lay ahead, and the daily challenges he assumed they would face and would have to overcome: “…we will fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight…in the air, …we shall defend our island whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, ..on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…” What does adversity look like to you today? What are the daily small steps you can take to overcome it?
Baseball honors three great players with election to the Hall of Fame. The truth is also that they honored baseball by their presence. They honored the game, the fans, and their opponents by the way they played the game and by the way they have conducted their lives off the field. In reviewing the Code for Living, which tenets do you think best exemplify these men? What is it about each of these men that you most admire? Which of these traits would you like to make more a part of your life?
There has been controversy over some things said by the Phil Robertson of the Duck Dynasty family. He expressed his opinion that homosexuality is wrong. Some people agree with him for religious reasons, and others disagree for religious reasons. Some agree for political reasons, and others disagree for political reasons. Others just think that we all have the right to say anything we want. The Code says, “I will respect the dignity of every human being…” In this country we can call overweight people “fat” people if we want to, and we can do it to their face. We can call people “stupid” or “spastic” or any other name we want to – it’s freedom of speech. But it’s not civilized. And it does not “respect the dignity” of others to call them names. So, we see this issue as a matter of respect, and good manners. For liberals, conservatives, or any of the talk radio people to take turns calling each other “idiots” does not do much to advance the well-being of anything. There is too much name calling in this world, and too little respect for others. What can we do to show respect for all people – even those we dislike the most? Is it worth making a New Year’s resolution about?
New Year’s is always the time for resolutions. The problem, as we all know, is that most of the resolutions die before the month is out. The Code says “I will develop my skills to the best of my ability…” Nothing is more important to our development as athletes and as people than the constant setting of goals for ourselves. The key to setting goals is to be able to break them down into daily achievable parts. It can be as simple as “I will practice one skill for ten minutes a day.” Change, growth, improvement is always the result of small, consistent, steps being taken. What is a goal you would like to set for yourself? Can you figure out a daily way to work on it that will be achievable? Success leads to success, and when we accomplish one small goal, it encourages us to do it again. And again! And again!
This year it seems that there have been a number of college football games decided on fantastic finishes, often even the last play. It reminds us of ABC’s Wide World of Sports with its iconic introduction showing: “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” In the past month there have been a lot of thrills and a lot of agony. But it’s why we play the game and why we watch the game – because we never know what will happen. The Code says, “I will conduct myself with caring and honorable behavior…” It can be hard to win or lose with grace and dignity, especially when it’s against a great rival. It’s important to remember (and sometimes to convince ourselves): it is only a game. It’s an honor just to get to play and compete against a worthy opponent. Winning and losing are two sides of the same coin. Can you keep perspective? What kind of athlete, coach, or fan are you?