Watching the World Cup games reminded us again of “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” and of why we play any game. We do it for fun; games should be fun. We also play games because we enjoy the reward and satisfaction of getting better as we practice and play. It’s exciting to be able to see yourself improve with effort – all of that is part of the fun. We play because we want to test ourselves, to see how we’re doing by competing against others. In playing games, we learn in a very practical way many life lessons: the importance of daily effort, discipline, playing by the rules, teamwork and the will to succeed. By playing any sport we “win” in so many ways. Unfortunately, in far too many situations today, the pressure to win has distorted these basic values. So where are you in all of this? As an athlete, do you wake up in the morning excited for the opportunity to play again? As a parent, are you being a positive support? As a coach, what are your goals for the team? There is so much more in any game than the final score, and the response of the people in Croatia to their team’s final defeat was a great lesson in “winning more than the game.”
“I will place team goals ahead of personal goals.”
It’s hard to remember when the entire world has been more riveted to an event than the rescue of the Thai boys soccer team stranded in the cave. It took the effort of over 1,000 people to save what seemed to be a doomed effort, especially when a Seal diver died before the actual rescue began. How was this possible? We know the answer: it was possible because of the determination and teamwork of people from many nations. The idea that each person was totally dependent on another person along the chain of the rescue is a powerful image for us. What if we counted on our teammates, and were as committed to them and to the success of our team, as if our lives depended on it? Playing on our team is not a matter of life and death, and neither is winning, but what can we learn from this event? What are the small ways we can each become a better teammate?
Christiano Ronaldo, generally regarded as the greatest soccer player in the world, saw his team, Portugal, fall behind at the 62nd minute when Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani scored his second goal of the game. Then, less than ten minutes later, Cavani was injured and was trying to limp off the field. While play continued, Ronaldo went to help him in an extraordinary display of sportsmanship.
The Code begins, “Because I am a role model with the opportunity and responsibility to make a difference in the lives of others…” It is important to remember that people are always watching and observing our behavior; we are all role models. Ronaldo’s act of sportsmanship was a great message to players young and old, about the importance of Winning More Than The Game!
As the World Cup unfolds soccer fans are thrilled with the games, with great plays, great mistakes, and unexpected outcomes. Soccer is perhaps the best example of any sport in which one great player is not enough to win. It takes a group of players totally willing and committed to putting team goals ahead of any personal goals they may have. When the Code says, “I will put team goals ahead of personal goals,” what does that mean to you? What are you going to give up, or do differently in your sport than you would if you didn’t put the team first? Can you think of several things? Would your teammates be able to tell? How committed to that goal are you really?
In case you missed it: High school pitcher Ty Koehn struck out the final opposing batter Jack Kocon to secure his team the section championship and a spot at the Minnesota state titles. But that’s not the story. Here’s the story: after securing the win, Koehn brushed aside his excited catcher and embraced Kocon in a bear hug while his teammates celebrated wildly in the infield.
The reason for the gesture was more than just sportsmanship though – the two players are good friends from their days playing in the Shoreview Area youth baseball league in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis.
“I knew I had to say something. Our friendship is more important than just the silly outcome of a game. I had to make sure he knew that before we celebrated,” Koehn told local area news.
“We are very close friends,” Koehn said. “I knew him from all the way back when we were 13. We were on the same little league team. It was tough when we went to separate schools but we kept in touch.”
WINNING MORE THAN THE GAME.
If you missed it, here’s a link (be sure to watch the teammates behind): https://twitter.com/espn/status/1006264953345576960
One of the best moments of any game are those that immediately follow the end, when players who have competed furiously until the end meet their opponents and greet each other often in genuine friendship. The game may be over and one team is thrilled while the other is often bitterly disappointed, but this does not stop the human exchanges of admiration and appreciation of a worthy opponent. John Wooden told his players that those in the stands should not be able to tell whether his team had won or lost by the way they handled themselves. We do not know James Harden but we read that he left the court immediately after his game seven loss and went to the locker room. We hope that he regrets that choice, but it is a reminder to all of us of the importance of sportsmanship and grace in winning or losing. What are the examples of good and poor sportsmanship that you can think of?
There has been a big Internet controversy over when an audio tape is played whether you hear “Yanny” or “Laurel.” Siri tells me that she hears Yanny, but that only half of us will believe her! How is this like the Code? We think this is a fun illustration of something important: even when we are all in the same room at the same time, we may not “hear” the same thing. Miscommunication occurs often! As a preacher once said, usually people hear what they want to hear, sometimes they hear what they don’t want to hear, and sometimes they hear what I said! The Code says, “I will be a positive influence on the relationships on the team.” An important role can be to be sure that everyone hears the same thing, so that everyone can be on the same page. When was the last time you can remember that a miscommunication or misunderstanding led to a problem?
Robinson Cano, the second baseman of the Seattle Mariners, has been suspended for 80 games for taking illegal drugs. So, he now becomes another name in the list of “cheaters.” He not only has lost his reputation but probably his likely inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Voters don’t like cheaters. Some commentators have wondered how a veteran like Cano could be so foolish; others have said they weren’t surprised as they have seen how his body has changed over the years. Some think he should be banned from baseball. The Code says “I will compete within the spirit and letter of the rules of my sport.” What do you think the punishment should be for those who violate drug policy in your school or college for the first offense? Second? What about professional athletes?
A volcano is causing disruption and destruction in Hawaii. People have known that some sort of eruption would come, but not when or where. It’s like that in sports – eruptions can come, and we know they will, but we never know when or where. This is why the “mental” part of sports is so important. Just as we train our bodies and work on our plays and strategies, we also must develop our minds. It’s important to think about possible eruptions and to ask ourselves, “how should I react? What should I say or do?” It’s good to remember Kipling’s words: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…” I hope we all want to be that kind of person. The Code reminds us that we are all “role models” and that we need to provide a “positive influence.” So, what have been some “eruptions” that you have seen? How were they handled? What did you learn from them?