“Winning With Integrity”
As an engaged Father of 4, I had the awesome privilege of serving as Team Dad for my son’s 3rd grade football team during his first year of organized football. We had a great coaching staff and made it to the semi-finals but unfortunately lost in overtime. My responsibilities as Team Dad were managing the Game Day Needs (water, equipment, Chain Crew, Game Announcer Schedule, and most importantly serve as the SAFETY COACH. I must confess that it was an eye-opening experience as I would not have thought 3rd Grade Football to be as physical as it was. With that said, in our journey to the championship, I have to highlight something that was obvious and quite troubling.
Before I begin, let me say that I am an avid competitor and love to win! Who doesn’t, right? The champions have been crowned for the 2013 Football Season and in most cases well deserved. There is a lot to learn and be discovered on the path to ultimate victory which just like everyday life, involves HIGHS and LOWS. I love Vince Lombardi’s statement that, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the ONLY THING” I believe this is true and I also believe in WINNING WITH INTEGRITY. What that means is to play within the rules, allowing talent, skill and strategy to prevail. When part of a team’s game plan is to target key players on the opposing side with the intent to knock them out of the game, someone needs to take note. Injuries are undoubtedly a part of the game, however the larger community CANNOT turn a blind eye when there are repeated incidents associated with a specific team.
Among the champions for the 2013 Season, clearly one team made a decision to take out the opponents best players. In fairness, this should be the strategy of every team and typically is but not by intentionally causing injury or harm by any means necessary.
The approach of true champions focus on strategies like:
- Double Coverage
- Double Teams
- Blitz Packages
- Loading the box to stop the Run
- Sound Blocking and Tackling Techniques
- Executing the Game Plan
When a team lacks talent and skill, they have to resort to playing dirty. They are not confident that their 11 Best can match up with the opponent’s 11 Best. Again, injury IS a part of the game and I cannot blame anyone for exploiting the opponent’s weakness. That’s how it’s supposed to work if you’re going to win. BUT do we accept repeated incidents in multiple games of specific athletes being targeted?
The Coaches and Community At-Large have to be brought into question. The sport of football, similar to many sports, is a great opportunity to develop the character of the next generation of leaders. This can only happen to the degree that we as adults are committed to character that’s rooted in integrity. This includes taking personal responsibility, admitting our mistakes and acknowledging areas we can improve. For one kid to take the helmet of a down runner and push it deeper into the ground, or blind-side a player with helmet-to-helmet contact consecutively, kicking players on when they were down, and being stepped on after a play can reflect poor and improper coaching
Obviously things happen, but it is our responsibility to instruct and discipline (when necessary) these kids in ways that prepare them to succeed in life. If a kid is repeatedly demonstrating unsportsmanlike behavior, I am doing him and society a disservice by not (as his coach) correcting the issue. We must show our children how to win the right way! By demonstrating an approach to win “by any means necessary” we ultimately set them up for failure.
Ask Alex Rodriguez… Ask Lance Armstrong… Ask Sean Payton (Head Coach of New Orleans Saints). The losing team at the Championship Game for the 2013 3rd graders had a key player who was duly suspended for punching an opponent in their semi-final game. This had an obvious impact in his team’s play in the Championship but was a great life lesson learned by the kid that was suspended and all involved. None of our actions happen in a vacuum. What we do each day affects those around us. It could mean the difference between winning and losing… it could also mean the difference between life and death (consider drunk driving accidents).
So YES, it’s just 3rd grade football but there’s a larger picture here. We must demonstrate the right message in word and deed if we’re going to see a better future for the next generation. Let’s be aggressive and play to win… but let’s do it with INTEGRITY. If not, we train our sons and daughters to build a success track with smoke and mirrors… eventually the smoke settles and the mirrors crack… then what’s left?
Hurt, pain, and brokeness… We can do better than that, can’t we?
What are your thoughts? Please share below.