From the Evansville Courier Press, October 17, 2010
Humility is a key attribute in a successful person, as well as a good teammate.
The dictionary defines humility as modesty and an unassuming attitude, and contrasts it with arrogance. The challenge in teaching and preaching humility within your team is that we see arrogance celebrated in business, politics and sports – you only have to turn on ESPN to see that lack of modesty by athletes after scoring touchdowns or listening to an interview with a player who talks about themselves in third person.
Being humble should not be associated with losing phrases like ‘nice guys finish last’, because if that’s the case, then you probably don’t really understand what being humble means. People who are humble are those who accomplish enough that they probably could be brash or arrogant, but choose not to.
Humility should be associated with being gracious and having class, and the best role models for young children often have those attributes.
Here’s some ways to help teach humility to your team and players-
Identify positive role models – most children learn best with visualization, or being able to see positive examples of what you are trying to teach. Being able to here players like Derek Jeter refer to his former Yankees manager Joe Torre as ‘Mr. Torre’ in an interview shows how much respect he has for his coach. Watching LeBron James pick up cups in his bench area after a game shows how much respect he has for his teammates and staff.
Encourage your players to do the little things that might not seem important at the time, but show that they have respect for themselves, their teammates and the game. Cleaning up after a practice or game – picking up tape from their socks or shinguards, picking up cups or trash – shows that they appreciate their host facility by leaving the bench area the way they found it. In most cases, players to don’t clean up after themselves weren’t raised to do that, and probably have a pretty sloppy room at home, too.
Shake hands with the opposing team and coaches, as well as the officials, at the conclusion of your game. No matter how happy or disappointed a player or coach is after the game, they should still not take themselves so seriously that they lose sight of good sportsmanship. Encourage your players and coaching staff to always respect their opponents and officials by shaking their hands at the conclusion of the game – as a result, it will show that they also respect the game, as well as respect themselves.
They should always take their job very seriously, but shouldn’t take themselves so seriously that they look past the fact that they should be fortunate to be able to participate in an opportunity that is not offered or available to everyone. Players who have humility seem to understand that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and keep their ego high on the field of play and humility high off the field.
Teach your players to serve – too often the idea of ‘community service’ is associated with a form of punishment, and for those who see it as that, they probably lack in humility. Your players should be prideful about the idea of being a role model for those around them, and to aspire to influence those who model them positively. We encourage our players at the University of Evansville to participate in community relations as often as possible, knowing that it helps them appreciate their role in our local community. The opportunity to participate in this fashion – to be a part of something bigger than themselves - enables them to learn how to serve their teammates on the field as well.
Be a positive role model yourself – do you say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ when you talk to your players? If you don’t show them that form of respect, what makes you think they would do so in return or to others?
Teach them how to be remorseful – the best way to be a positive role model is for your players to see that you are human yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, and it is very healthy for your players to see their coach acknowledge when a mistake is made or to not play ‘the blame game’ – putting the responsibility for losing on one of their players or the referee. Accountability is an important attribute to have as both a leader and as a member of a team –I used to have a sign over the mirror in a locker room that read ‘Blame this guy first’ – those who are humble take responsibility for their actions.
Humility is as important an attribute to learn as passing or shooting, and the really special players and teammates stand out in how the behave as well as how they play.