Integrity is a “power” word often used in coaching and athletics. Every parent wants their son or daughter to play for a coach with high integrity. Moreover, every coach wants his/her players to display integrity both on and off the court. Never before have young people, especially athletes, been faced with so many decisions that will directly affect their future. Whether it’s deciding what to eat, how to train, who to hang with, how long to study, or even what to post on social media, athletes are barraged with all kinds of choices and decisions. It is estimated that young adults are making over 20,000 decisions a day.
The challenge is how to foster individual integrity to help athletes and teams become good decision makers. Transformational coaches create opportunities to teach their program about the importance of good decision making. One such transformational coach is Greg Kampe at Oakland University. A few years back he began a tradition of giving his players a yellow brick and having them carry it with them throughout the season. This yellow brick symbolized the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz. Anyone who has seen the story knows that whenever Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Lion, or the Scarecrow veered from the yellow brick road, trouble followed. What a cutting edge idea to help athletes make good decisions. Coach Kampe’s players know that Oakland Basketball is not just about winning. They know they are part of something special. They are part of a program preparing them to be young men of high character.
Another leader who utilizes cutting edge ideas to help young athletes is Tim McCormick. Tim is not only a former professional athlete, but he is currently a national motivational speaker, and along with directing Michigan Elite 25, which I have referred to in earlier posts, Tim runs the nation’s TOP 100 camp, and works for the NBA in a variety of leadership roles. It is with these experiences that Tim is able to secure some of the best and brightest leaders from both the sports world and the business arena to speak to the E25 family. As the E25 educational/leadership facilitator, I see first hand the impact these leaders have on our E25 athletes. These talks are very inspirational, and help our athletes understand the importance of character, integrity, and that the daily decisions they make, truly affect their destiny.
In recent posts I have been sharing the fictional journey of an elite athlete CJ Harding, from my recent book An Elite Journey: A Young Man’s Leadership Story. Aforementioned in previous posts, struggling to reach his full potential, CJ’s life is forever changed when he stumbles upon his late father’s leadership manual. His father wrote a blueprint for success around the acronym ELITE. In my first post, I shared the letter “E” stands for education and having a mindset for success. In the second post I shared that the letter “L” stands for leadership, and that leadership is a choice all elite athletes must make.
As CJ continues to read his dad’s journal he finds the “I” in ELITE stands for integrity. Athletes with integrity “choose the hard right over the easy wrong”. Integrity means there is no gap between what you say and what you do. CJ also learns that one’s character is more important than his reputation. His father’s words continue to motivate CJ as he is struggling with his role on his team, dealing with bullying at school, and living in the shadow of his father, who was an incredible athlete and leader.
CJ reads quotes and poems from his dad’s manual that eventually change his life. One quote that really resonated with him was from John Wooden. “You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” CJ also liked the quote from Willie Mays that inspires him to become more consistent on the basketball court. “It isn’t hard to be good from time to time in sports. What’s tough is being good every day.”
Though the quotes help shape CJ’s decision making, it’s the poems his dad includes that really inspire CJ. One poem CJ really liked was by Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr., titled “The Guy in the Glass.” He especially took note of the first stanza, “When you get what you want in the struggle for self and the world makes you king for the day, just go to the mirror and look at yourself and see what that guy has to say.” This stanza and the overall poem, not only helped humble CJ, but it helped shape his decision making. He started to understand that his “decisions defined his destiny.” CJ began to be more mindful about how he uses social media, his relationships with teachers and coaches, and his presence both at school and at home. CJ begins to see that his path toward his dreams, is paved with his daily decisions.
I look forward to sharing more about CJ’s journey in future posts. Thanks for all of your interest in my book. I have received great feedback from hoopcoach.org readers. As mentioned prior, what makes An Elite Journey so reader- friendly is that the storyline resonates for all athletes. Also, the questions at the end of each chapter helps facilitate rich discussion.
Check out what a few people who have read my book had to say. Joe Boylan, a current assistant for the Memphis Grizzlies wrote, “I wish I could have read An Elite Journey at age 15, instead of 28, but the story resonated just the same.” Former professional hockey great Jimmy Carson recently emailed me and wrote, “As I was closely following CJ’s journey it brought back memories of my own triumphs and failures as I progressed through my hockey career.”
If you are interested in finding out more about my book please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Currently, along with the E25 athletes, college teams and a growing number of high school teams or leadership programs are utilizing it as a team book. You can reach me through my website at michaelmassucci.com or email me at [email protected]. You can also find out more information on my twitter handle @coachmassucci or #elitejourney.
Past Articles from Coach Massucci: Leadership is a Choice | Success is not Random