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Monthly Motivations: Speak Up


If you want to make a big splash, you’re going to get a few people wet.

The world is full of things we’ve always done and ways we’ve always done things. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s not. And when one stands up and intervenes on behalf of another way – a better way – that person can be subject to a disproportionate amount of resistance, ridicule, and social or even professional ruin. Even if that person is right. 

Needless to say, there is a lot of incentive to stay on the edge of the pool and refrain from jumping in. Better to go with the flow than disrupt it and risk the fallout from dampening the ideas of those who would disagree.

This is a challenge that we all face at many points throughout our personal and professional lives. For some athletes, coaches, and sports parents, it can feel like a daily occurrence. 

We use the phrase “win-at-all-costs” at Positive Coaching Alliance to describe a culture where winning is so important, that any behavior or decision is acceptable as long as it leads to a victory. In those environments, the cost of winning isn’t just the effort, commitment, and sacrifices invested into preparation and performance. It’s much greater than that. For instance, consider the following questions related to situations which you may have encountered in your own time as an athlete, parent of an athlete, or coach. 

  • What did you do when you had a chance to intervene when a coach decided to roster or play an ineligible player?

  • What did you do when you saw an official’s calls start to shift in your team’s favor after repeated insults and barrages from parents in the stands?

  • What did you say to your team when you believe that their trash-talking riled up your opponent and took away their focus?

  • What did you do when you noticed that no one wants to warm up with that one “quirky” kid before a game?

  • What did you say when your team started trading cheap shots with your opponent while the officials stood by and “let them play”?

  • What did you do when you saw one of your team’s best athletes refuse to leave the playing field despite suffering an injury that you know could be serious? 

In a win-at-all-costs culture, the answers to these questions are easy and the same. Nothing. You…we…I…did nothing. Said nothing.

Perhaps our team still won. No one got caught doing anything wrong. No one got hurt (as far as we know), and even if they did (emotionally or physically), it doesn’t matter because we got the win, right? 

The cost of winning, in this case, is our integrity.

I’m not saying it’s easy to rock the boat, make a splash, or speak up. As a matter of fact, I’m saying the opposite. It can be extremely hard

That’s why I have so much respect and appreciation for initiatives like Team Up Speak Up, which encourages athletes to take responsibility for the health and safety of their own teammates. While this particular initiative focuses on concussions, the truth is that we could all do a much better job of taking into consideration the health and well-being of our young athletes given the clear evidence of the risks of overuse and early specialization that so many of us choose to ignore.

Through Positive Coaching Alliance we provide tools and resources that emphasize the importance of respecting the rules, opponents, officials, teammates, and oneself – and the importance of helping kids learn how tobounce back from mistakes and creating environments where failure is embraced as an opportunity to grow and improve.

These tools, initiatives, and resources are important because in this case (as in many throughout our lives), the high road is a lot harder and perhaps less travelled than the other. But the next time you’re faced with a situation where you need to decide between taking a stand or just standing by, remember this: While it can be easy to fall back on a win-at-all-costs mentality to explain away why you chose to do certain things, how will you feel about yourself when you reflect back on why you chose not to do things that would have reinforced what you claim are your values and the lessons you hope to instill in the kids you coach?

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Marty Mordarski is the Executive Director for PCA-Cleveland

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