The Ethical Sports Circle

A number of years ago, I was fortunate enough to return to Japan for a bit of business and some sightseeing. I value my experiences in Japan, from my friends to the food to baseball! The MLB could learn a few things from the enthusiasm of Japanese baseball fans. Anyway, I found myself entering a Japanese temple one day and was impressed with the peace and tranquility I found in the midst of Tokyo.

LotusThe temple had a small gift shop that sold various trinkets and for about $5.00 U.S. currency, I picked up a quarter-sized medallion with a purple silk string that allowed the medallion to be attached to a briefcase. On one side of the medallion was a lotus blossom design and on the other, an inscription (in Japanese, of course). I asked a friend what it meant.

Loosely, it meant that everything good will eventually go bad and everything bad will eventually get better. If you’re a Cubs fan, you can clearly appreciate that logic! However, in the larger scheme of things, we can appreciate the sentiment as it is applied to all sports, and to life in general.

A fullback with Adonis-like looks and Atlas like strength and talent will fall victim to injuries and age; an incredible tennis talent will begin to lose her edge no matter how much she wishes it wasn’t so. Conversely, a rookie pitcher coming up through the minor league ranks will break into the rotation; an NBA assistant coach will finally get a shot to take the helm and coach the team at the highest level.

The point is that sports, as in life, has a cycle that cannot be stopped. Any man or woman will rise and fall. It also applies to entire programs. A stellar D-1 football program may fall prey to scandals; a once failed NHL team with bad management may bring in a new coaching staff and high draft picks and develop a whole new image.

The thread

OK, we can figure out the symbolism in the inscription easy enough, but I came to understand the thread is a reminder, a symbol of something much more than simply the attachment. What holds the cycle together and what tears it apart? It is ethics, good and bad; the choices and consequences we make in life. It is ethical behavior that if practiced can elevate a program, team or player. It is a lack of ethics that can turn a good player or coach or team into a bunch of bums.

The good ethics of a man or woman makes up that person’s reputation. Bad ethics will follow them into disgrace.

The fullback whose skills diminish may have the good reputation to turn his playing career into numerous opportunities after retirement. The quarterback who is a bum and who makes one bad choice after another, will fade into oblivion. I have never seen it fail.

Reputations follow us and whether you are a collegiate coach, an LPGA golfer or a 100 meter sprinter, the only thing keeping the sports circle from spiraling down is a strong sense of ethics. Chuck Gallagher speaks on sports ethics, consults on sports ethics and reputation management. He believes a strong sense of ethics is life-saving. A poor sense of ethics is life crippling.

The costs to institute sports ethics training on a regular basis are ridiculously low compared to the loss of reputation in any program where there are bad choices and consequences.

Yes, good will turn not-so-good and the difficult will turn better with care and ethics. The circle is a fact of life we cannot control. However good ethics, good choices and positive consequences will prevent the circle from turning into a downward cycle. It is all we should ask.


For more information on Sports Ethics LLC:

Telephone: (828) 244-1400

Twitter: @sportsethics

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Phone: (828) 244-1400
Fax: (866) 426-4118
Chuck Gallagher
3620 Pelham Road #305
Greenville, SC 29615