As we have highlighted in numerous presentations for our high school age group parents, coaches, and players, nearly 95% of youth sport athletes nationally WILL NOT go on to get a college scholarship, and fewer than 30% will even play in college. So, what are, or what should be, our long-term hopes for our children participating in youth sports? Physical development and fitness are certainly key elements. Confidence and social interaction can be included as well. One critical element, often overlooked, is INTEGRITY. The quote below from billionaire businessman Warren Buffet provides insight into the importance of this value.
“We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don’t have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you’re going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb. I mean, you don’t want a spark of energy out of them.”
As one of the Kings Hammer values, it is important that everyone has a better understanding of the word and our role in supporting it with our players, our teams, and our club.
So, what is INTEGRITY? And what can coaches, parents, and players do to promote and foster it?
- the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
- Similar: honesty, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, virtue, decency, fairness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness
- the state of being whole and undivided.
- Similar: unity, wholeness, cohesion
According to SmartCompany.com integrity has 7 core characteristics:
- Generating Trust
- Keeping Promises
- Helping Others
Click the link to view details from the article: Smart Company-The magnificent seven aspects of integrity
What does Integrity look like?
Every day there are many ways you can act with honesty and integrity at home, on the field, in the classroom, etc. These include:
- Respecting the privacy of conversations and not engaging in gossip
- Communicating honestly
- Taking responsibility for your actions
- Keep the promises you make
- Supporting and displaying the club’s values with or without recognition
- Acknowledging your team when they perform high quality work, win or lose
- Being trustworthy
Living these qualities is not easy. There is a constant struggle to “Do what is right.” Hays.com recognized this struggle in an article on integrity in the workplace. They note that: integrity is the ability to recognize the conflict between personal interests, values, and beliefs and professional responsibilities.
Integrity, or sometimes the lack of integrity, is also something that we cannot hide. As Maria Rattay stated in an article she wrote in 2021 highlighting the tremendous show of sportsmanship and integrity displayed by tennis start Andy Roddick during a match:
Whether we like to believe this or not, our level of integrity is always on show, in the way we speak to our children, in how we respond to others, in the way we deal with situations, and how we behave in the workforce (or in the case of soccer-on the sideline.) Integrity is not something that we take out every now and then and polish it like some silver cutlery when the need arises.
Integrity is YOU, in action!
Aristotle was one of the first to note that integrity is not an innate human attribute, it has to be learned and it has to be practiced. So, who or where do our youth athletes learn this value from? Us, their parents, coaches, as well as their teammates, siblings, and friends. They need to see their parents and their coaches act with integrity. They need to understand what it actually means to treat others with respect and yes, sometimes it even means learning a hard lesson like why honoring a commitment or keeping a promise matters.
Questions to ask about your own integrity –Take stock of your own integrity and moral principles. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How consistently do I follow through with commitments and things I say I will do?
- Am I transparent enough when communicating?
- How do I support my team to be their best?
- Do I show up ready each day and give my best performance?
- Do I keep myself accountable – including when I make mistakes?
- Am I responsible?
- Do I lead by example?
- Do I show respect for the ideas of others?
- Do I always give credit where it’s due?
- When do I show integrity – always or only when someone will notice?
Next step then would be to engage your child or team in a conversation (based on age group) about their integrity.
Coach leading the way
Most people have experienced the discomfort that comes with competing against someone who sacrifices integrity in the name of victory. When it comes to young athletes, promoting integrity should remain at the forefront of every athletic competition. Therefore, a coach should:
- encourage a team to always play within the rules.
- Never encourage athletes to perform morally or legally questionable actions during gameplay.
- Support the calls of referees regardless of which way the calls go
- Set a positive example for athletes by preserving integrity as the highest priority and recognizing when athletes display integrity
- By setting a positive example, athletes will learn to respect the game instead of trying to win by sacrificing morals.
- Encouraging integrity on the field will also translate to positive character development off of the field.
As parents and coaches, we cannot ensure whether any of our youth become GREAT soccer players. However, by engaging our players in learning Integrity, model for them what it looks like, and celebrate when it is achieved, we certainly can improve their chances of being GREAT people, capable of success where it really matters..in life!
Resources for Parents and Coaches
- Teaching Life Skills Through Youth Sports-Timeout #1 Honesty and Integrity
- Youth Sports Buzz-The Importance of Teaching Kids Integrity in Sports
- Smart Company-The magnificent seven aspects of integrity
- The Soccer Sideline Podcast-#23 Integrity Through Youth Sports
- From 10 Ways Coaches Can Promote Sportsmanship, Ohio University
- Maria Rattray-An Example of Integrity Where the Stakes Were High