Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sportsmanship by Action?

Today we coached one of our gymnasts in a regional competition. She performed very well, and she did an amazing job in performing. What was even more amazing than her performance was not something as visible as the the routines she performed on each event, but the fact that I observed two coaches demonstrating their character in sportsmanship. I am not sure they even realized that I or anyone else even noticed their character shining through their coaching. I have always been an advocate of “Leading with Character First.”
Here we were in the middle of a very important regional gymnastics meet and both coaches had their values, ethics, and character tested. In one coach’s actions, she showed genuine and authentic care and support for her gymnast who despite almost a perfect warm-up before the competition, completely fell apart while performing for the judges. When this gymnast completed her bar routine, after falling twice and missing several skills, the coach threw her arms wide open and just “hugged” her gymnast in support for her. What a great move! That coach demonstrated the most authentic and genuine care for her gymnast that I have ever seen….one can tell if someone really means it when they care, can’t they? It is really refreshing. The coach could have communicated what the errors were, she could have been embarrassed at her performance, she could have been angry, she could have been disappointed even, there are just so many things the coach could have done or said, but she didn’t. That coach showed great form herself. I am sure her gymnast will remember her coach's performance for a lot longer than she remembers her score or her own performance. I was so impressed that I went up to the coach after the meet was completed and told her I really respected her and her coaching….she had done a great job of mentoring and coaching her gymnast for life, not just gymnastics. WOW! We need more coaches like her.
The second instance was more of a demonstration of solid ethics and values by another coach who has personally helped me grow both as a person and a coach. Again, I am sure it didn't
even occur to him that those around him may be watching his actions…but, they spoke louder than anything else in that gym at that time. In this case, this coach’s gymnast had already finished warming up, and for whatever reason, the gymnast thought that the judge had saluted her and she began her routine. In the sport of gymnastics, if you start before the judge salutes there is a significant penalty. So, after she performed her routine and the coach realized that the judges had not been judging, he had to make a decision. Was he going to inform the judges that in fact this gymnast was not still warming up, but had completed her routine? He had to decide if he was going to make the head judge aware of that fact or not. Without any hesitation, this coach walked over to the judges table and informed the judge of his gymnast’s mistake. The judge made a decision and then had the gymnast perform again…most likely with some deduction in her score based on her starting before judge had acknowledged her. Now, this may seem trivial, but this was a clear example of actions speaking louder than words…and this coach’s actions spoke volumes. He knew they would most likely not catch the fact that she had performed, they just thought she was the last one warming up. So, he did the right thing….at the right time…in the right way. Having been mentored by him over the years, and having watched him over all those years coach all the kids he has, I was very proud to say he is my friend, colleague, and fellow coach. I walked over to him and praised him for his choice to “act with character.” 3 CHEERS for this Coach! Leading with Character takes courage and values…both coaches demonstrated those characteristics. We need to Remember to Lead with Character First. Character does count….others may be watching!

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