“If character is our moral excellence, integrity is the wall that protects that excellence”
This week my soccer club, STAR Soccer Club, finalized the 2015 Vision Document. This document discusses our mission, vision, goals, and values. It also lays out our coaching and playing philosophy. our style, and habits of excellence for our players and staff. It is a document, but it is so much more than words to our club.
We crafted this “living document” over the course of the last 8 months. It was born out of experience on the field, conversations over coffee, coaches clinics, and surveys. Most importantly, it was developed as a representation of what the coaches, players, administrators, and parents of this club lived and breathed every day.
Since I joined STAR in January, I have watched intently. I have studied. I have taken notes, asked questions, probed for reasons behind actions. I even sent surveys, asked for feedback, and took notes on behavior patterns.
I picked STAR. I want to make that very clear. I CHOSE to join the STAR Family. I saw a few things that mattered more to me than anything else we weigh as soccer coaches. STAR had a special culture that was a perfect fit for the philosophy, values, and vision that I had developed over my 26 year coaching career. It is a throw back to the days when I played combined with a glimpse into the future of soccer if people choose deliberately to follow a strict value system. STAR has great coaches and players. We are competitive at all levels of the game. There is no doubt I chose a quality club. But I chose this club for much more than the quality of play.
STAR also has a culture that sets it apart. The club does not just talk about values, or write them on documents, web pages and twitter posts. STAR lives its values every day. I chose STAR because it was home for me. They have great coaches, players, and parents. They play great soccer. AND they have a culture that strives to create excellent men and women beyond the game, and in today’s youth sport world, that is a rare gem. That culture made me feel like I was home.
STAR lives what it believes every day on the field. When I asked them to define the values that meant the most to the club, it was fascinating to compare what they wrote to what I had experienced for 8 months. As I looked at my own notes and back again at the computer screen, I was astonished by what I saw. Almost to a word, the survey results matched the values I had written down over the last 8 months. You see, every time I witnessed something that trended among the club, I noted it. Every time I heard a value ascribed, I marked it. Every time I felt the club maintained a standard, I jotted it down in my book.
As I sat down to finish our Vision Document, I was looking at 8 months of research almost perfectly replicated in a google form survey. This was truly remarkable. This was further proof I picked a winner. This is why I CHOSE STAR. They lived their values so much on a daily basis, that it had become instinctual. What a refreshing breath of air that is!
I want to share with you the values STAR lives and breathes and finish with a comment about the second and third most important values. I say second and third, because no matter what you think, FUN is the most important.
- Fun – This is the single most important reason children stay with the game or quit it. When they stop having fun they stop playing. Let that sink in for a moment. Now picture a club where every coach and kid is having fun. Every session is exciting, fun, and full of laughter. Every game is relaxed and enjoyable. You just pictured STAR. We have a LOT of fun.
- Integrity – In the face of the new sport culture, this one is assailed almost every day. Stand strong. Do not let temptation change who you are and what you stand for, my friend. STAR coaches exemplify this.
- Respect – STAR Family members respect each other, the game, their opponents and refs. They also respect themselves and this is a big one. People who respect themselves do extraordinary things.
- Evolving – This was very interesting. I could not describe what I saw about STAR that was so unique. A coach suggested this in the survey and as I reviewed my notes I saw that theme again and again. That was the undefinable character. The club is evolving. They don’t just learn, develop, grow. They evolve, which denotes a slow development into something better, more advanced, more complex. This defines STAR perfectly. We don’t seek player development, we seek the physical, mental, and spiritual evolution of people first, players second.
- Tenacity – When you are the “little” club you fight every day to gain respect. Some call it a chip on their shoulder, but our players and coaches are not out to “prove” anything or be malicious. They have the tenacity to overcome the bias against them without anger.
- Commitment – Our club had a 90% attendance rate at pre season camp. We have an average 92% attendance rate at coaches clinics. From coaches who do not get paid! Our players and our coaches are committed to each other, to the game, and to the club. Bravo!
- Character – This is moral excellence. A set of qualities shared by a group. This is fascinating to see lived out by STAR. Our coaches and players have a high set of standards and choose to do the right thing daily. Because everyone does this it has become a set of qualities shared across the entire club. It is impressive to see the character of STAR.
- Teamwork – Our club puts the player first, team second, club third, and in a long shot fourth comes the coach. You see this every day on the fields. Putting player and team first breeds collaboration. As a club we share, we help, we support. It shows in all we do.
- Leadership – I don’t see leadership as yelling at people or causing fear in them to get them to do what you want. I don’t see it as pushing people to their limits but not pushing yourself. Leaders don’t sit idly while their underlings do the work. Leadership is so much more. Leaders jump in alongside their partners in the battle. Leaders learn to encourage and empower their players. Leaders do the right thing even when it is hard to do. STAR is full of true leaders.
- Family – In the end, this may have been the biggest reason I CHOSE STAR. I wanted to be part of a family. A place where we shared common values and beliefs. A place where we fought for a common goal. A place where we supported each other, picked each other up, cheered each other’s victories, and commiserated each other’s losses. A place where I felt like I was home. I have coached all over the country. I have coached in 13 different states, for more than a dozen different clubs. I have coached all ages. I have done camps, clinics, run rec programs, other clubs, college, and even semi-pro teams. I have felt at home before, but never as strongly as I felt when I CHOSE STAR. This place is a FAMILY.
A quick comment about Character and Integrity. Fun was the most selected trait on the survey. It was also the word that popped up the most in my notebook. Closely following that were Character and Integrity. These words were written a lot in my notebook. I heard them many a time over the last 8 months. They were the 2nd and 3rd highest voted values. As I first looked at them, I thought are they the same? Are the interchangeable? Should I only pick one for our Vision Document?
The answer was NO. I realized they were both chosen because they carry very different meanings to our club. Character is moral excellence. Integrity is incorruptibility. Our club has a true moral excellence. The problem is, no matter how morally excellent you may be, temptation can still get the best of you.
“I’ll cheat just this one time”.
“No one is looking”.
Even the best of us are deeply tempted to fall down, but Integrity is what keeps us from giving in to this temptation. It protects our character. I told our coaches at the meeting when we presented the “living document” :
“If character is our moral excellence, integrity is the wall that protects that excellence”.
I CHOSE STAR Soccer Club because it has a beautiful city of moral excellence surrounded by an impenetrable wall of integrity.