I heard an interview recently on "Ontario This Morning" on CBC radio that really caught my attention. The show's host, Wei Chan, was interviewing a minor hockey league coach from Peterborough. During a game in November, the coach, Gary Walsh, pulled his team from a game after a player on the opposing team uttered a racial slur to a member of his team, who is black. When the player was not pulled from the game but instead returned to the ice after the incident, Coach Walsh's team decided not to continue the game and returned to the dressing room. As a result, Coach Walsh was given an indefinite suspension by the Ontario Minor Hockey League. The player and the coach from the opposing team also were suspended for 3 games.
During the interview, Ms. Chan asked Coach Walsh if the decision was a difficult one. After all, he knew that he would probably be suspended. Coach Walsh replied that no it wasn't. His team made their decision not to continue to play, and he supported that decision, because it was based on what they believed in. They knew that uttering racial slurs, whether delivered in the heat of hockey play or not, was wrong. When the player was not penalized for his actions, even after it was brought to the attention of his coach, Coach Walsh's team felt they could not, in good conscious, continue to play. They were there to support their team mate. They knew, in their hearts, that it was the right thing to do. For Coach Walsh, the decision was simple. He and his team were living by their values.
I was blown away by this interview for a couple of reasons. First of all, I was impressed with Coach Walsh. Here was a man who knew what was important to him - what he believe was right and just in this world - and was willing to live by those values even though he knew he would be punished for it. He was solid in his belief and felt no regret. And I was impressed that his team of young players - 16 and 17 year olds I believe - who were solid enough in their values to stand up for what they believed in. It is obvious that Coach Walsh had not just been instilling the values of good sportsmanship into his players, but also other important values as well - loyalty, integrity, strength, courage, equality and fairness. All of these values, to me, are lacking in sports today, where money, fame and "good television" seem to take precedence over good sportsmanship. And to have youth this age buck the trend to do what they did is amazing. I am encouraged to know that these youth will be tomorrow's leaders.
I try very hard to live by my values. They make the decisions I have to make every day a bit easier to make. However, I am not sure if I could have done what Coach Walsh and his team of minor hockey league players did. That showed great courage and strength. The lesson in this for me is that I still have a long way to go, but now I have a role model to look up to. Thank you, Gary Walsh, for that.
What are your values? Do you live your life by them? Coaching can help you to discover what your values are - what is really important to you - and help you to build your courage muscles to begin using them to guide your life. If you would like to grow your values muscles, give me a call. I'd love to show you how great a values-based life can be!