- 09.29.2020 The Rise of Philosopher-Athletes
Watch the altercation here
The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers rivalry is unquestionably heated. Tempers flare in rivalries, but what happened during the November 14, 2019 game at First Energy Stadium should never occur. The altercation that took place late in the fourth quarter was extremely unfortunate, but it happened. So outside of the inevitable disciplinary action taken by the NFL, what’s next? We teach!
As coaches, parents, and athletic leaders, how can we utilize this scenario to amplify character education for our young people? As adults, it is important to take a step back and look at the big picture. As a coach, if your players are talking about this during a practice or game, what will you say? How will you react if your son or daughter approaches you about this situation? We encourage you to take a proactive approach in having this discussion. Below are some thoughts and tips to help you frame these conversations and to use young fans’ interest as an opportunity to teach valuable life lessons.
ENCOURAGE YOUR ATHLETES VISUALIZE THE SITUATION FROM ALL PERSPECTIVES
Sports are competition and as such, those involved tend to focus entirely on outcomes. There is a winner, and there is a loser. In situations like this, there are no winners, and in this particular situation, there is no innocent party either. The two primary individuals involved, Myles Garrett and Mason Rudolph, are both responsible for their own actions and neither can point to the other as the sole reason for the outcome. They were both responsible for escalating a situation that could have been resolved differently. Many social media posts, articles, and sports talk comments have pointed fingers. As adults, we are beyond the point in our lives where we exclaim, “well, he started it!” Every individual is responsible for his own behavior.
As you are speaking with your athlete(s), encourage them to replay the altercation but have them imaging playing a different role each time they watch it. If they were in Garrett’s shoes, what would they have done differently? If they were Rudolph, what would they have done differently? If they were one of their teammates on either side, how would they handle that situation? Ask your athletes questions to encourage the development of their thought processes rather than simply telling them how each player should have acted in your personal opinion.
ELEVATE YOUR ATHLETES SELF AWARENESS AND SENSE OF SELF CONTROL
One of the core PCA principles is the ELM Tree of Mastery. E=Effort, L=Learning, M=Mistake management. The ELM Tree of Mastery essentially defines your “controllables.” Many of the individuals in this situation lost control, but we will focus on Myles Garrett as an example since his actions were the most severe. Garrett clearly made a mistake (a serious one), and he will have to face the consequences. Ask your athlete if his action defines him as a person or a player? Should he simply accept that this is now who he is for the rest of his life?
At PCA, we believe the definition of a person and a player is ultimately up to them. He will be labeled by the public (that is part of the consequences of his actions), but the only person who can truly define someone is themselves. If Garrett accepts his punishment, learns from the situation and puts forward the effort to ensure he doesn’t duplicate the mistake and make it a habit, then he will be in full control of how he is defined as a person and a player (pending reinstatement from the NFL after any suspension, of course).
Garrett has already taken the first step to re-define himself. In the post-game interviews, he accepted responsibility for his actions in the locker room after the game, calling his own behavior “embarrassing, foolish and a bad representation of who we want to be and what we’re trying to do.” There is no excuse for his actions, however the way he responded after the game showed a level of maturity that will hopefully help expedite his self-redemption opportunity.
HELP YOUR ATHLETES’ DEVELOP A SELF CONTROL ROUTINE
A self-control routine can keep someone from words or deeds in the heat of a moment or competition that they may later regret. Such routines need to be proactively taught and practiced to maximize the chance of implementation in challenging situations. In the heat of the moment, individuals often aren’t aware that they are losing control until they are made aware. As a coach or parent, encourage your athlete to come up with a word or phrase that you can use to help them recognize that they are losing control until such time they develop the skill to recognize it themselves. Encourage your athlete to think of something that will make them laugh or relax. Then encourage them to create something that will calm them down (i.e. count to 10, take two deep breaths, snap a rubber band on their wrist, etc.)
For those of you who coach young athletes, Daniel Tiger has a great self-control routine:
When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath, and count to four.
A brief pause in the heat of a moment can have a tremendous influence on an individual’s next move.
DEVELOP AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR ATHLETE’S RESPONSE
Tim Kight, producer of the Focus 3 Podcast said it perfectly: “I am not my circumstances, I am my choices.” Kight’s E+R=O formula is perfect for this situation: E=Event, R=Response and O=Outcome. Events happen and they are often entirely out of our control. An event alone should not determine an outcome. Your response to that event, which is within your control, will determine the outcome. If you do absolutely nothing, then yes, the event will be the outcome. If you react to the event in a heated, derogatory, or negative manner, the outcome will be worse than just the event itself. If you react to an event in a levelheaded and positive manner, the outcome will be far greater than how it started.
Have your athletes think about a difficult situation they may have faced. Use the E+R=O formula to help them understand how much influence their response to an event can have on their outcome.
The Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship is a great positive example:
E = Down in the playoff series 3-1.
R = Positive Mindset (they believed they had what it took to be the first team ever to bounce back from a 3-1 deficit to win the title and they took it game by game)
O = Larry Brown Trophy and Cleveland’s first major sports title since 1964!
TEACH THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PERSON’S SINGLE ACTION AND WHO THEY ARE AS A PERSON
Since the altercation with Mason Rudolph, Myles Garrett has been called many extremely derogatory names/terms. “Myles Garrett is a moron” is an example. In sports (and in life), failing at something doesn’t automatically make someone a failure just as making a mistake doesn’t make that individual a mistake. There is a very big difference between a person’s action in a moment of time and who they are as an individual. Garrett made a “stupid” decision and acted in a “stupid” way. Ask your athlete, “does a poor decision make him ‘stupid?’”
I believe that a single instance doesn’t define someone. If the behavior persists, the individual doesn’t learn from it, and they don’t put forward the effort to correct it (ELM Tree of Mastery); then that is a different story as they aren’t taking care of their controllables. The real test and true defining moment for Myles Garrett will be what he does next. That is entirely on him.
REMEMBER THE ROOTS OF THE GAME
It’s important to remember that sports (and life) are bigger than any one individual. Always remember to act with integrity and respect the ROOTS of the game.
R = Rules: Refuse to bend the rules. Help your athletes understand that rules are in place to keep environments safe and fair. When rules are not respected or broken, that is when you get negative outcomes.
O = Opponents: A worthy opponent is a gift that brings out our best. Without opponents, there is no competition. Teach your athletes to appreciate the opportunity competitors provide to compete.
O = Officials: Show respect even when we disagree. Explain to your young athletes that self-control routines can be exercised in any situation with any individual.
T = Teammates: Never do anything to embarrass our team, teammates or community. Ensure that your athletes know that they represent more than themselves.
S = Self: We live up to our own standards even when others don’t. Continue to teach your athletes about the importance of integrity. Jack Welch said it perfectly “In the end, your integrity is all you’ve got.”
About Positive Coaching Alliance
Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) is a national non-profit organization with the mission of creating a positive, character-building youth sports environment that results in BETTER ATHLETES, BETTER PEOPLE.
Youth sports currently involves 40M children, which presents a tremendous platform on which to develop youth character and life skills. Research has shown that in order for youth to accrue these benefits from sports, sports needs to be done in a way that creates a positive youth development culture. PCA ensures sports are ‘done right’ with programming that is research-based and designed to have an impact at three levels in a youth sports organization or school:
Since its founding in 1998, PCA has established 18 chapters nationwide, partnered with roughly 3,500 schools and youth sports organizations to deliver more than 20,000 live group workshops, reaching 19.2 million youth. PCA offers interactive online courses and has thousands of multimedia tips and tools for coaches, parents, athletes, and leaders available free of charge on PCADevZone.org. PCA also runs two annual awards programs: a scholarship program for high school student-athletes and a coach award program to recognize youth and high school coaches who strive to win and teach life lessons.
PCA gains support from a National Advisory Board of elite coaches, professional and Olympic athletes, organization leaders, and academics who share PCA’s mission including Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach, Lindsay Gottlieb and others such as Joe Thomas, Dusty Baker, Carol Dweck, Herm Edwards, Julie Foudy, Phil Jackson, and Steve Kerr. PCA is proud to partner with more than 50 national governing bodies, youth-serving organizations and professional leagues and teams including the Boys & Girls Club of America, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and US Lacrosse.
To learn more about Positive Coaching Alliance, contact: