Integrity Matters Broadcasts

September 8 , 2008

Sportsmanship and Success

Dear Friends: 

Rob Friedrich, Athletic Director at Pacific Grove High School, Pacific Grove, California, invited me to speak at his school’s Sportsmanship Night, on Tuesday, August 26, 2008. Seems the venues and audiences change, but the subject matter remains the same.  Over and over, it boils down to integrity.

Jim Bracher with Rob Friedrich

Pacific Grove High School Gymnasium 
Home of the Breakers
Proud recipients of the Sportsmanship Award for 2006-07; and
2007-08; Mission Trails Athletic Conference - two consecutive years

With about 400 attendees, including students, parents, teachers, coaches and administrators - my message was simple:  sports competition, at least at the high school level, is more about handling life’s challenges with grace and ease than callously pursuing victories. 
By way of reminding those who might be seduced by the tantalizing promises of professional contracts, my comments referenced former Georgetown University’s head basketball coach, Mr. John Thompson.  It was he, who, when speaking at a Nike Coaches Clinic said this:  “Young men growing up in Harlem, New York, have a greater probability of becoming a brain surgeon than in being a starter in the National Basketball Association.”  My reason for mentioning the hard statistics to this young high school audience was in no way to discourage hard work and commitment.  Rather, it was to keep high school sports activities in a realistic and healthy perspective. And how very constructive that high schools set aside time in their schedules to convene parents, students and educators, including coaches, to emphasize appropriate behavior on the field of play and among the fans, including families and friends.

Those in attendance leaned forward and paid special attention when they heard me describe my consulting experiences during the past 30 years.  Not one time did an organization, large or small, ever hire our leadership development organization, Dimension Five Consultants, Inc., to provide executive coaching to especially gifted managers simply because they could run further, swim faster, jump higher, hit harder or pass a ball accurately!   In contrast, thousands of times, over decades, individuals with whom we consulted, were offered promotions, including expanded responsibilities, because they could relate effectively with others. And, many of these talented supervisors, many of whom became senior executives, credited their coaches, including classroom teachers, with passing along to them the importance of genuine commitment, clear communication, relentless dedication, personal sacrifice, moral courage and seamless graciousness in both victory and defeat.  

So, at a local high school’s Sportsmanship Night; what better place to be reminded of the importance of integrity-centered behavior?  Here were caring coaches, supportive parents and committed school administrators – each providing the same message – namely that Integrity Matters.

In conclusion, students were encouraged to listen – to parents, teachers and coaches about skill development and team effectiveness.  And, they were challenged to take seriously the dramatic global implications of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, that the world is changing and that our abilities to prosper in the future will continue to require hard work, but, in addition to knowing how to get along with others, the study and mastery of Mandarin would be prudent. 

Obviously, this was a serious, even sobering, message for high school athletes – but, the sooner they grasp the challenges, the more effectively they will be able to compete in the present and the future. As is the message of success – it begins and ends with listening – in sports competition, the classroom, the day-to-day work world and the boardroom.  Listening is the foundation and it is how we talk about building trust and impact:

Listening is the art of moving beyond one's need to control the agenda. Listening creates a conversational context for give-and-take that prospers when inquiring supersedes influence. Listening seeks clarity and expedites insight. Listening creates partnership and commitment. Listening is the key for organizational effectiveness and leadership.

One final thought – the positive power of an encouraging word, especially when shared in writing, demonstrates legitimate concern for another person. 

Ben Hogan, known as the Texas Iceberg, was the notoriously unapproachable professional golfer with machinelike performance. He became what many consider the greatest player ever or, at least until the arrival of Tiger Woods. Ignoring the debate on who was or will be the greatest golfer ever, this is a story about the remote Mr. Hogan, the perfectionist, the stony-faced clutch performer - who not only survived a debilitating automobile crash, but returned to golf - to regain his title, as simply the best in the world.
Two writers had arrived in Hershey, Pa., many years ago, to ask Ben Hogan about his secret. They wanted to know how he had recovered from his near-fatal car crash. Was it his iron self-discipline he had acquired teaching himself to play golf, swinging a club until his hands bled? Was it his legendary concentration, removing every thought but getting well, just as he had shut out distractions created by noisy fans trooping behind him from hole to hole?
Physicians and surgeons told him he would never walk again. Incredibly, just three years later, he was playing golf, reclaiming the career that would make him a legend. When Hogan met the two nervous interviewers, they were prepared for a perfunctory interview, grudgingly granted by a stoic superstar.
Instead, he offered a smile, not a scowl. The 130-pound man, with a slight limp, provided gracious give-and-take about what it took to make his comeback. Yes, discipline and focus were important, but, mostly, Hogan stated: "It was the letters." To learn what he meant by “the letters” click here:

Words of encouragement – one form of coaching - come from those who care!  Coaching can come at any time from anyone who will take the time to help another person.  

The bottom line:  Pay It Forward!

Pay It  Forward! (Never stop sharing your good fortune, optimism, enthusiasm, strength, intelligence, judgment, and on and on . . .)

Thanks for caring!  Thanks for listening!  Thanks for sharing!



James F. Bracher  

Dimension Five Consultants, Inc. 
Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership  
P.O. Box 22467

Carmel, California  93922  

And at: 
James F. (Jim) Bracher, Director
Executives in Residence
University Corporation at Monterey Bay
California State University Monterey Bay 
100 Campus Center,  
Building 201 - Suite 101
Seaside, California  93955
Phone: (831) 582-5015
Phone:  direct: (831) 582-5038
(831) 582-5019 Fax

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