President Bush was remembered for many great reasons this week. We heard an interview in which he was asked what his “legacy” would be. His answer was that this was a question for others to decide, but then he went on to say, “I made some mistakes and we did some good things.” Notice how he said “I” made some mistakes but “we” did some good things. That is a reflection of true leadership, of a person who takes responsibility for his or her mistakes, but always gives credit to the team for success. Coach Wooden said, “It’s amazing how much you can get done when no one cares who gets the credit.” Take a few minutes to reflect on the qualities of President Bush you most admired. How did his life reflect the Code?
The Thanksgiving college football games reminded us that most schools have a “bitter rival,” and these games have historically been the final game of the season. Often the rivalry becomes blown out of proportion – with members of one school vilifying the members of the other school, regarding them as some sub-human form of life. It is too bad when this happens. There is nothing more exciting than a game between two opponents with each giving their all to win. Equally, there is nothing more heartwarming than to see the players from each team embracing the other after a long and hard fought contest. The privilege of being a part of such a contest is its own reward; the honor of playing with teammates is one of life’s richest treasures; the fact that you are supported by alumni no matter the outcome is as it should be. Rivalries are wonderful, but the goal should always be to win more than the game.
I ordered some eyeglasses online recently and a few days later received an email that assured me that “soon you will look even more fabulous!” After laughing to myself at this (I was not aware that I looked fabulous,) it reminded me of some experiences I have had. I have known people who were so positive in everything they said that they made everyone feel more positive than they otherwise would have. These people were nots blind pollyannas, but were what I would describe as “encouragers.” We can all be encouragers; we can find something positive in our teammates in every practice, and comment to them about it then, or just as good, later. So, this week look for opportunities to say something positive to each teammate when you normally would have been silent. You can do it! Yes, you can!
The Code says, “I will give of my time, skills and money as I am able…” We all recognize the importance of giving back to make our schools, communities and world a better place. We believe that a great way to do this is as a team. It allows us to get to know our teammates better, and it give us another way to “be a team.” When we act as a team it makes a statement to others about the kind of athletes and citizens we are trying to become, and encourages others to do the same. Is there a project that your team can come together to support? Can you take leadership to make it happen? Can you invite another team to join you? Could you encourage all school captains to champion “a school-wide day of service?”
We are all role models – even if it is for a person we don’t know who observes our behavior. Who are your favorite role models? They can be in any sport, or in any walk of life. How would you describe them to someone who has never heard of them? We think this is a conversation worth having from time to time, with yourself and with others. We suggest that each person think of one trait of a role model they especially admire, and consciously try to practice that trait every day for a week. Would you be willing to share with someone the trait you are going to practice, and why not challenge them to pick a trait and do the same?
There are “gray” areas in the rules of all sports. In football, basketball, and soccer, for example, when does an innocent hand check, to see where the opponent is, become holding? The Code says that we “will compete within the spirit and the letter of the rules…” The “spirit” of the rule is the intent of the rule, and is a higher standard than just the rule. What are some of the rules in your sport which enter the gray area? What does the spirit of the rule require? Are you willing to live by a higher standard than your opponents, even if it costs you a game?
This is a time of the season when tensions can begin to arise between teammates. Some who are not starting may think they should be. Others, who may be starting, may think that others are not making sufficient effort. There are always some teammates who simply don’t like others. Further, if things aren’t going well, some players begin to question the coach, etc. Tensions can make improvement difficult. Where are you in all of this? How can you “be a positive influence on the relationships on the team” as the Code expects? Can you work with others to mediate issues and help the team become stronger?
Tiger Woods’ victory on Sunday is the talk of the sports world. Why? Because few thought we would see this day again. He has had four back surgeries in the past five years; he has undergone great personal difficulties, mistakes, physical and mental challenges. And yet, he won. His victory is worth saluting because of the effort and determination it took to get there. He didn’t need the money; he didn’t need the fame. He didn’t need anything except to prove to himself that he could do it. The Code says, “I will give my best effort in practice and competition…” Can we all learn something from Tiger? Will we run the extra lap, take the extra time, make the extra effort?
The Code says, “I will display caring and honorable behavior off the field and be a positive influence in my community and world.”
This year was the 50th Anniversary of Arthur Ashe’s winning of the inaugural U. S. Open Men’s Tennis Championship, and at the same time being the first African-American to win a Grand Slam Championship. Those old enough to remember Ashe remember his explosive serve and complete game as a player, and his quiet elegance and determination as a human being to make the world a better place. Sport has too rarely offered his equal as a role model. One of the things he said was, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” In what ways in your life is “the doing more important than the outcome?” What does this mean to you?