It was a gathering of coaches; college, high school, youth, men’s, women’s, boy’s and girl’s from a wide variety of different sports.
The topic was Integrity in Coaching. Two of the panelists were longtime coaches in the small community in which I live. Both had distinguished themselves as successful from a wins and losses standpoint but, more importantly, both were known for being men of integrity who placed that value ahead of the success measure most coaches are evaluated on.
There were at least 50 coaches in attendance to hear the conversation. This was the first of what will likely be many more get togethers to help coaches of all sports at all ages levels be better equipped to help their athletes be better people as well.
A hand in the audience went up and was quickly called upon. He asked, “Can you give us an example of what to do when we maybe mess up with an athlete by saying something to them we shouldn’t have.”
One of the panelists, a very soft-spoken man, began to speak quietly. The room was hushed as everyone in attendance wanted to hear what he had to say.
He shared the story of a time when one of his high school players had made a critical mistake on the very last play of the game. His team was ahead at the time and all they needed to do was run one last play and the game would be over and they would beat one of their biggest rivals. More often than not, they had come up on the short end of the score with this team. Emotions were high on the sidelines as there was an expectation of victory. It was not to be as one player made the mistake that snatched victory from their grasp.
The coach went on to share how when the game ended, with a very different outcome than was expected just moments before, he went up to the offending player. He began to yell at the player and tell him how his mistake had cost them the game. It was not a pretty picture.
It didn’t take long for the coach to realize what he had done. This was not who he was or how he wanted to handle those types of situations. He said, “It took me a little while but I finally worked up the courage to apologize to the player for what I said to him….FOURTEEN years later.”
Both men continue to live in the same small town. They attend the same church. Their paths cross often and yet it took the coach 14 years to work up the courage to apologize.
The coach told me that most of the time when he saw the young man he would remember how he had spoken to him. Sometimes he would even change his course of direction if they were walking towards each other so he could avoid him. It gnawed at him. He lost sleep over it. He was afraid to approach the former player and apologize and ask for forgiveness.
After 14 years it had gone on long enough. He couldn’t take it anymore. He saw the young man in church. He approached him and asked him to join him in the library. He told the him he was sorry. He asked him to forgive him for what he had said to him fourteen years earlier. The now adult husband and father did forgive him. That’s another story for another time.
The coach said immediately a burden he had been carrying around for over a decade was lifted. He felt such relief and freedom from this simple, but very difficult, task. He wondered aloud why he had waited so long to act.
It takes courage to apologize when we’ve wronged someone. The longer the clock ticks or the days, months, and even years slip by on the calendar the more courage is required.
It takes courage to accept responsibility for what we do to another person. If we don’t act soon someday we won’t have the chance to act courageously and do what we know we need to do.
Is there someone in your life you need to courageously reach out to today?
Are you carrying around a heavy, heavy load that could be lightened with your courageous act?
Don’t wait until tomorrow. You never know when it’s going to be too late!
Have a STRONG and COURAGEOUS day!