Column - Commitment to integrityHow steadfast is your integrity? How strongly do you feel about your principles and values? Strong enough to live by them and put them into action daily?
By: Lori Mork, Alexandria Echo Press
How steadfast is your integrity? How strongly do you feel about your principles and values? Strong enough to live by them and put them into action daily?
At first, the answer seems like a no-brainer. Of course you would. But, put into a difficult situation, would you be able to stay true to them?
Sometimes, the answer isn’t as black and white as we’d like to believe. That’s especially true in the sports world, where, every day, we see coaches, athletes, parents and schools plunged into sticky situations. Often times, the rules solve many of the situations that come up, but what if the solution is entirely up to you?
Some sports, such as tennis and golf, especially at the high school and college level, are self-patrolled. Athletes are expected to call the out-of-bounds plays or rules violations on themselves.
But what about in situations where there are officials on site to take care of those calls? What would you do if they made a wrong call?
I came across a story recently about Northwestern College in Roseville, a Christian-based institution, that has begun to make a change through its volleyball program. The coach of the Eagles’ team, Beth Wilmeth, has asked her players to commit to self-reporting or making “honor calls” on themselves, reporting their violation if, on a blocked shot, they touch the ball before it goes out of bounds, telling the officials even when those officials haven’t caught the infraction. Those honor calls would cost the Eagles a point for each violation.
Hard to do? You’d better believe it. This is a program that has won two straight Upper Midwest Athletic Conference titles in a row with perfect 14-0 records, putting together a 30-7 record in Division III play in 2008. They have also reached the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCAA) National Tournament five straight years – so they are certainly not some lightweight program. Instead, the Eagles are a highly touted national team.
So, to ask your successful and highly competitive players to voluntarily give away points during a match? Certainly not an easy task.
But Wilmeth convinced her squad that living their principles on the court would elevate the Eagles’ program – and players – and leave their school with a legacy that would truly last for years. It would influence other teams as well as make its mark on the young children who attended their games.
And that influence did come. Opponents have begun to make their own honor calls and officials, who at first were reluctant to recognize those calls, going so far as to ask the NCAA about the legality of them, have now begun to honor them as well.
Have honor calls hurt the Eagles? They haven’t lost a match because of them, but they did cost Northwestern 30 points last year. The team’s final rankings were also influenced by the calls.
But, that commitment to honor earned the Eagles’ volleyball program the women’s national NCAA Student-Athlete Sportsmanship Award – one of the highest honors a program can receive. It also, according to coach Wilmeth, can help make a positive change on the culture of sports.
That’s a lesson in integrity that we can all take to heart.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.