I read in the Globe and Mail last week that the President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Tim Leiweke was answering questions at Ryerson University concerning the MLSE’s teams. He was asked about the recent emphasis on “analytics” in building successful teams. After answering this question he went on to say, “There are players we have in our organization today (Toronto Maple Leafs) whose numbers are off-the-chart good and whose character is just terrible. I don’t care how good your numbers are: if you have bad character, you are doomed for failure.”
How many times have we seen talented professional athletes who cannot achieve their true potential and likewise how many “underdogs” have we watched soar from obscurity? The elements of determination, a strong work ethic, a commitment to excellence and teammates are elements that would comprise “character.” These are some of the elements that coaches would like to see in their athletes as they work hard to foster character and teams.
And I read the rest of the paper, Ray Rice the talented running back for the Baltimore Ravens was suspended for the year for domestic abuse, Adrian Peterson, a perennial all-star was charged with youth battery for hitting his 4-year old with a stick. And finally, Oscar Pistorius, an Olympic icon in South Africa was convicted of culpable homicide.
Character is much more than determination, work ethic, and a commitment to excellence. Cultural historian Warren Susman has said that we have moved from a culture of character to a culture of personality and where we have moved from a notion of achievement to performance. The above athletes have performed at the highest level, but have they achieved?
As educators it is our responsibility to ensure our athletes understand that character is much more than just performance on the field, or rink, or arena. Character is a transferable trait; transferable to the classroom, to the home, to a social setting. The respect that athletes seek in the athletic arena is one that must flow from the athlete to their everyday life. It is our responsibility to ensure that our athletes understand and act in a manner that reflects the full definition of character.