Coaching with Integrity

By February 21, 2014 6 Comments

**This article was originally posted in February of 2014**

One of the most important things a person can have is integrity. Having integrity means one possesses the ability to be honest and fair. Individuals with integrity have a strong moral code and ethical belief system. It’s extremely important to coach with integrity in today’s world. For this week’s post, I am going to share a recent situation I was in, my actions and beliefs, and what I believe coaches should stand for.

This past weekend we had our seeding meeting for our upcoming district basketball tournament. The coaches of all eight teams are present. Each coach gets the floor to talk about their team and where they feel they should be seeded. After each coach has talked, coaches rank each team 1-7, and do not rank their own team. The votes are tallied up and the team with the lowest score is the #1 seed and so forth.

Going into the season I knew our team could be a top 3 seed in districts. However, we lost a couple of close games that prevented our record from being up in the top three. I do not believe in “dirty” seeding (this is where coaches rank teams inappropriately just to give their team a better seed) because in order to win the tournament, you’re going to have to be the best anyways. Either you’re good enough to do it or you’re not. So, I felt our team deserved the #4 seed and expressed this to the other coaches. I turned in my sheet with whom I felt were the top teams 1-7, based on their performance during the regular season.

In the meeting, there was a close call between who should get the #2 and #3 seeds. Most schools seemed to agree with me that Team A, who had six losses, but played a tougher schedule and had more quality wins should be the #2 seed. Team B is a very good team, one we lost to in a very close and competitive game earlier in the season. However, their schedule and number of quality wins weren’t as impressive as Team A.

All ballots were in and it was a close call. The last ballot to get put on the board came from Team B’s coach. He ranked us #1 and had several other teams completely out-of-order. Now when things happen like this, you have two choices. You can either stand by and do nothing, or you can do the right thing. I, along with all of the other coaches, were completely shocked by this. Rather than sit by idly, I said something. I said, “I’ll be honest. We are not the #1 seed. That’s ridiculous.” Team A’s coach said, “At some point, you have to have some integrity.” The coach from the legitimate #1 seed got up and took a picture of the board with all teams’ rankings on them. Team B’s coach got up and said, “Integrity went out the window a long time ago.” I responded to him by saying, “Then what are you teaching your kids?” Not much else was said after that because despite the effort from Team B’s coach, his team still received the #3 seed. In the end, all he did was make a lot of other coaches upset while showing a lack of integrity.

Later that afternoon, I met with our players before our game to go over the district seeds. I told my players exactly what happened in the meeting. I explained to them that we talk about having integrity and teach character education for a reason. My goal is not only to make them better basketball players but more importantly better people. I talked about how what the coach from Team B did showed a complete lack of integrity. I also said that integrity means doing the right thing when the opportunity presents itself. I told my players that I hope they see me as a man of integrity and that if I had not said anything in the meeting, then I wouldn’t be doing the right thing.

A coach should always be a person of integrity. The problem is that some people are solely focused on winning and miss out on opportunities to teach life lessons. Our team works very hard, and our goal is to win a district title. We may or may not do it this year. But I am proud of our character education program and the life lessons we teach in order to make our players better people. In the end, that’s what matters. My team is either good enough to win or it isn’t. But I will not cheat or “dirty seed” other teams just to give my team an advantage. Coaching with integrity not only means we teach our players about having a strong moral and ethical code, but it also requires that we stand up and do the right thing when we have an opportunity to do so.

What are some examples in your profession where you’ve witnessed a lack of integrity and had an opportunity to confront it? Did you?

As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!


Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Sherry says:

    Hi Coach,

    I recently heard a coach say “if you’re not cheatin’ you’re not trying.” I almost fell over. I haven’t seen the coach since to address it. Sometimes I think coaches repeat things without really thinking about the message it conveys.

    BTW, are you watching “Friday Night Tykes”?

  • Dee Gerstenkorn says:

    Thanks for standing up, coach. Our world needs this to happen more often in all types of situations. Your girls will remember this lesson.

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks Dee, I am confident they will. They’re a great group to coach!

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment Sherry, I appreciate it! I have previews for the shows but haven’t watched it? How is it? From the previews I felt disgusted. It saddens me that they give this kind of coaching and behavior attention. I find it troubling that it’s on the air, I hope it’s with the intention to draw awareness to negative coaching. If it’s not, it’s only going to make others think that type of style is ok.

    Have a great day!

  • Great post, Kyle. Way to stand up and do what is right! Not all coaches would have done that in that instance, but you had the courage to speak your mind about what is right. The lesson you have taught your kids in this will be so much more impactful than any dribble move, ball screen defense, or end-of-game situation that you teach them.

    In our Proactive Coaching presentation “Life Lessons for Athletes,” we talk about ten behavioral characteristics that true athletes exhibit. One of those characteristics is integrity. We talk about how life is not easier for people of integrity, but it is simpler. Life is not easier for people with integrity because they will still be faced with the same number of ethical dilemmas as people without integrity. However, life is simpler for them because they apply their same belief system and standards to every decision they make, and so they always do the right thing. We also talk about how people without integrity will often adjust their principles to meet their actions, as opposed to the people of integrity who adjust their actions to meet their principles. You would love that presentation and the booklet from which it comes. Check out more about them at http://www.proactivecoaching.info, and if you haven’t done so yet, “Like” our Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/proactivecoach, so you can receive short posts for coaches, athletes, and parents everyday.

    Thanks for all your posts and for modeling for your kids doing the right thing, Kyle. Keep up the great work!

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks for reading and the kind words Scott, I greatly appreciate it! I follow your FB page & love it! Great stuff, thanks for sharing all the great content that you do. Very helpful & inspiring as a coach.

    Hope all is going well with you! I will definitely check out the presentation.