Ethics in Sport and Athletics

New Orleans Saints. Penn State. Lance Armstrong.  What kind of images do these names bring to your mind?  What do you think about upon hearing or reading these names?

The law will take its course, each case will proceed through the legal system, and some conclusion will result, at least in the legal sense.  But what about society as a whole?  I feel that human kind is always looking for some sort of answer, closure if you will, and this is no different with the circumstances of the aforementioned names. Indeed there have been individuals and organizations in the past that have been convicted of various violations and either punished or released and we move on, or do we? With the growth and prevalence of technology, we have become acutely aware of our interconnectedness as human beings. How are we getting any better? How are we learning from our mistakes and helping others to not make the same mistakes we’ve seen in the past?

Every organization ought to take some time to reflect on the state of their own existence, what they stand for, and how each individual is contributing to the greater whole.  In the case of an ethics violation, it’s usually the result of the actions of more than one person. As a team or collection of people oriented toward one goal or set of goals, you owe it to yourself and to your colleagues to keep one another on track. In my own experience, I am constantly reminded of the needs people have to feel love and acceptance by other human beings. Even in a world of technology where connections are endless and real-time, there is nothing that replaces true physical and emotional connection.

So, how do you view ethics as applied to sport and athletics? How do you view the connection of human existence to athletic endeavors? At least in terms of television, live sporting events continue to rate higher than most other programming. To me, this is an indication that this connection to real people has real value – people want to see, feel, and be a part of other people’s existence. J. Patrick Dobel is a professor at the University of Washington and former Faculty Athletics Representative to the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.  If you’re interested in further reading on ethics in sport and athletics, he has quite a bit to offer. Check out his blog HERE.

Core Strengthening

Core strength. Athletes and strength and conditioning coaches certainly know how important this is to overall physical health and performance, but what about the rest of us?  How much are you training your core? What’s your routine? Situps, extensions, side bends?  Yes, we know there are many great exercises for strengthening your mid-section, but what I’m talking about here is not your physical core, but your inner core.  Your spirit,  your mind, your personal brand.  I just read a great article this morning by Darren Hardy, publisher of SUCCESS magazine, who blogs about these types of things all the time.  The article on branding I liked can be found HERE.

What are you doing to strengthen your personal relationships –  you know who I’m talking about.  Your spouse, children, parents, neighbors.  Who are the most important people in your life and how are you doing with them? How often are you talking about more than just the weather and what you ate for dinner last night? How often are you able to connect with them on a deep, personal level where you both are sharing equally about what makes you human and feel alive?

What are you doing for yourself on a regular basis? How often are you taking some time out to reflect on how you’re feeling about life, about work, about who you are as a person? How are you connecting with your spirit? Do you feel like something is holding you back? Do you feel guilty about anything? Why? If you do, explore that guilt and make steps to correct it; like I mentioned in last week’s post, do what’s difficult. The feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment you receive, regardless of the outcome, is something to be valued. When you do what’s difficult and with the right intentions, you win no matter what the result.

For me, I enjoy the time in the morning when I’m up early, having a cup of coffee, making lunch, reading the morning news. I also enjoy those few minutes right before bed when everything is quiet and still. I’ve got these few minutes at the beginning and at the end of the day to myself to actively reflect on who I am as a person, to gather strength and to ask for forgiveness. There is always time for yourself, no matter how busy you might be, no matter how much attention your kids or job might require.

Take some time today for yourself.  Schedule it in your calendar and make it a priority.  It won’t happen unless you do.  Go forth!

The Golden Rule

You know what the Golden Rule is, right?  Treat others as you would want to be treated.  What a fantastic way to live!  Everyone deserves respect, so you why not treat others with respect in order to gain that yourself?  The same goes with every other value a person can come up with and this is often the case of what you get in return.  However, someone once told me (I really wish I could remember who) to forget about the Golden Rule.  Throw it out.  You don’t need it.  That person said to treat others they way THEY want to be treated.

Wow.  I had no idea what hit me at that point.  Treat. Others. The. Way. THEY. Want. To. Be. Treated.  Huh?!  I had never thought of it that way before and I was completely stunned. Of course we were talking in a business context about customer service and about how so many businesses, both small and large, fail in terms of customer service. How does your organization view customer service?  Do  you listen?  Do you ask more questions than you answer?  What does customer service mean to you?

This is really meant as a thinking and reflection exercise where you inwardly reflect on how you act as an individual and how your organization operates.  How are you serving others?  How well do you know yourself and how well do you know the people around you?  I don’t claim to be an expert on these things but I love learning; I’m always trying to absorb as much as I can and in my limited life experience, it seems that everything is based on people and personal relationships.  No matter what you’re doing, you are in some way developing personal relationships.  People working in sales already know this, but perhaps didn’t think of those interactions in this way.  For others, it’s a tad less common to think of customer service in the course of their daily routine.  For instance, in an administrative role, your customers are your employees, your fans, your sponsors and the other people your organization does business with, and in a way, the entire general public.  Coaches – your customers are your players and support staff.  They are doing everything they can to orient their behaviors in the same direction, at the same time, with the same goals.  How are you serving them and giving them all they can to succeed?

Personal relationships matter regardless of what role you perform in your organization.  Get to know the people around you and let them get to know you as well.  We’re all in this world together and we’re becoming more and more connected every day.  In some way or another, no matter how small or big the decision, everything you do affects someone else.  One of my favorite movies is Shawshank Redemption – a movie that is really all about personal relationships (and when you think about it, isn’t every movie?). In that movie is one of my favorite lines: “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin.”  Which are you?

Do What’s Difficult

Often times we know what we need to do, we just don’t do it.  Why is that?  We procrastinate, put it off until later, take the easy way out, ignore what we really should be doing.  Maybe it’s just human nature and an ever-present instinct to resist change.  Or maybe it’s something completely different.  But that’s what I’m going to suggest here…listen to that little voice inside that wants to resist.  Allow yourself to change, to be strengthened, to be challenged to grow.  Usually you know what the right thing to do is, you just don’t do it.  Or you know what you should be doing, so “Just Do It.”  Take it one step at a time.  For example, stop before you say what you’re really thinking; pick up that last crumb instead of letting the dog lick it up (you know it’s really not good for dogs anyway!); say you’re sorry if you messed something up and that you’ll do better next time.

Then comes the hard part, actually do it better or differently next time!  Consistency is key with everything in life.  Whether you’re consistently slacking and lazy, or hard-working and dedicated – they are all self-fulfilling prophecies.  I think it was Henry Ford who said, “whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”  I like that.  As with most things in life, it’s also all about perspective.  What is your perspective on your own corner of the world?  How do you see things as they currently exist?  Is the glass half full or half empty?  I prefer to call myself an optimistic realist.  I prefer and usually choose to see what’s good in the world, but also realize the depths of sadness and horror to which we’re exposed.  So, let us actively choose to do what’s right, to grow together, to  hold ourselves and our peers accountable.  The world needs more personal accountability, friendship and love – in both professional as well as personal.

Anyone involved with a sports team knows what I’m talking about.  Teammates, coaches, administrators all keep themselves accountable to varying degrees.  How are you keeping your peers accountable?  Players push each other to the limits in the weight room, just a few more yards, just follow through a little bit more on your swing.  From coach to coach, talk about how that situation played out – and give some encouragement and advice on how to handle that particular player differently or what to say when your team knows what to do, but needs a bit of encouragement from someone they trust.  As an administrator, do you always have your student-athletes in mind when you make decisions?  Do you actually consider how your choices will affect the staff that work for you?  These are meant as rhetorical questions that one must answer and apply to their own situation.  No matter who you are, there is always something more to know and to learn.  Be a team.  Help someone out.  Do what’s difficult.

Great Blog Content

One of the reasons why I wanted to start this blog was because there are so few good blogs out there that are of value to those in the sports and athletics industry.  Yes, there are some that are VERY well done and I read those blogs almost daily.  Some are more inspirational or motivational; others are more business focused and fact-driven.  These are both valuable to the sports business professional, but consistency is key…both in content as well as timing.  To always present something of value on a regular basis is a very difficult thing to do; one of my favorite authors talks about that here.  It’s a personal discipline that affects not just your blogging activities, but your entire life as a whole.  Discipline.  Everyone in athletics must understand what that means and most do.  Oriented around my personal core values, I myself have begun to exercise discipline on a regular/daily basis in all aspects of my life.  This is a process though and one must take deliberate steps with a purpose in mind.  For this blog, the purpose is to inform and share.

So how does one create good content?  Start with a plan.  Goals.  Where are we going?  How do we get there?  How do we know when we’ve arrived?  All great questions that one must be asking on a regular basis.  Sometimes difficult questions, yes, but all the more necessary for being successful and maintaining that success.  Once you’ve started asking those questions and started answering them…

Just start writing.  That is one thing I love about Nike…”Just do it.”  How simple, yet how powerful at the same time.  No excuses.  No dilly-dallying.  “Just do it.”  Don’t procrastinate, don’t think about all the million other things you have to do.  Here is an opportunity to act on something that you know could be completed in the present.  This type of discipline is a learned task that must be constantly re-learned throughout one’s life.  There will always be challenges, obstacles, and other influences that are trying to distract us from what is really important.

So that’s what I’m doing here – I’m starting out with a plan and just getting it started.  Post at least once a week on topics that may be of interest or benefit to others, while at the same time being disciplined in my learning and becoming better internally in order to help others more.  Here’s to more consistency and discipline for us all.