I’ve been married a long time. When you are out and about, you often see people who are drop-dead gorgeous, headturners…male or female. You look and then you get smacked by your spouse, right? You can justify it as ‘window-shopping’ and such. For most, that’s all it is…just a moment of looking because you KNOW what you currently have is better. The thing is, for some, window-shopping becomes a ‘test-drive’ and then a trade-in for that new model…and stretching the metaphor a bit, then you often see a bunch of ‘buyer’s remorse’.
So there’s a story that in some form goes like:
There’s a soldier off at war and while there, he exchanges correspondence with a woman at home as pen-pals. When the war ends and he is safe and heading home, they agree to meet at the train station. He says he’ll be in uniform and she says she will wear a red dress and white hat. The day comes, his train arrives, and he waits outside the city station. Approaching are two women one several steps in front of the other. The first woman is straight out of a fashion magazine, radiating complete natural beauty. The soldier notices the second woman approaching. She is wearing red with a white hat. The woman is wearing makeup applied just off and it is clear her clothes have seen much better days.
As the beautiful woman passes the soldier and smiles at him, he says “Good day, ma’am” but nothing more. He then steps towards the woman in red and introduces himself and that he was here to meet her and was looking forward to sharing dinner with her. The woman smiles and says “No, the woman you really want just went past you. I’m her friend. She’ll be waiting for you just outside the movie theater. We were just concerned that you would be as nice in person as it seemed in your letters.”
The soldier and the first woman had a lovely evening and are now married happily for more than 30 years.
–Yes, there are holes in the story like “Why didn’t they exchange pictures?” and so on. That’s not the point.
So how does this matter for coaching and leadership.
Commitment is important. Your word is important. Others can take your money, your job, strip you of everything physical–but your word…that’s all you. Part of leadership is showing your concern is *genuine*–that means being truthful. It means avoiding temptation and backing away from commitments you’ve already made.
You see that all the time with college coaches, especially the D-1 level. A kid commits, promised the world, and then six months later, they get told the scholarship’s going to some other kid instead, that the coach’s word (given when the kid is only 15) doesn’t hold now because the kid is 17 and didn’t grow as tall as expected or whatever. From a true leadership standpoint, this sort of behavior by coaches is unacceptable.
What it means within college sports is that ‘committed’ is nothing of its kind. It means “I’ve decided–unless something better comes along”…and that’s not commitment. Worse, other athletes know that scholarship offers get pulled, players already on campus lose scholarships, so how can you trust that coach’s word? There’s absolutely zero genuine concern there for the athlete–it’s 100% self-interest on the part of the coach. That is not leadership no matter how you stretch the word.
But I think all coaches are guilty of this–internally at least. Isn’t that part of recruiting? You have a really good 5’10 hitter, but you go out recruiting for a 6’2 hitter even though that all-conference 5’10 kid has 2-3 more years of eligibility. Do you forget to appreciate what you have while thinking what you COULD have with the 6’2 kid? Obviously it is all different because coach-player relationships are limited to a fixed number of eligibility-years…it just feels the same.
The central point of this is–be careful what you wish for, the grass is always greener…, appreciate what you have not what you don’t….just like your mama always told you.
I’m convinced that integrity and honesty is key for real leadership. Leadership is not found on a scoreboard or win-total. It’s in how we approach the promises we make regardless of temptation in other regards–and in a profession (coaching) where employment-status is often determined by wins and titles, this means showing real leadership, maintaining integrity is challenging, and the ONLY person who can keep you on the straight and narrow is YOU, yourself.
So coming back to this (again) and thinking…I think most coaches WANT to act with integrity but fear drives them to do ‘whatever it takes’ to win on the scoreboard…fear of being fired, fear of what other coaches are saying, etc. Can you motivate others to do the right thing when you, yourself, are motivated by the wrong thing?
How do you mentor others (coach or athlete, leadership in general) in these sorts of situations? It’s easy to point out what is right–but the temptation, the ‘better’ alternative, is available then and there.
I’d love to have answers–but I don’t think there is one. My path to integrity is not going to be the same as anyone else’s. I just wish more people would get on the path so we could pave it and turn it into a multi-lane expressway!