Championship Character


By Shaleek Blackburn

Every coach loves an athlete that can execute their plays perfectly and make game-winning moves, but that’s not the only thing that counts when managing a top-notch team, says Rob Wigod, Athletic Director Institute professor of the MCAA program and California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Commissioner. It is critical to have athletes on your team who display good character and stellar sportsmanship by conducting themselves properly, from both an ethical and moral standpoint, says Wigod. It’s even more important than wins and losses. “A person of good character wins the championship every day,” suggests Wigod. “Their ability to follow the principles of being trustworthy, respectful, responsible and caring about others, being fair and living by the rules; all of those things relate to an individual’s capacity to be the best person they can be.”

Both athletic talent and character can be taught and should be recognized and rewarded by coaches and athletic leaders, notes Wigod. “It doesn’t always get a trophy, plaque or medal, but character is really what, on a daily basis, should be paramount to the overall athletic experience.” As a coach, you hope that the experiences young people have through athletics will help them later in life, when they’re husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, employees and bosses.”

Every year at their annual winter dinner, which the MCAA program sponsors, the Orange County Athletic Directors Association acknowledges what it refers to as the “Six Pillars of Character”— Trustworthiness, Responsibility, Caring, Respect, Fairness and Citizenship. In February, 93 students from 47 O.C. schools were honored with the nonprofit’s Athlete of Character and Honor Award. Tributes like these, says Wigod, are a great way for athletic leaders to show student athletes, especially those who may not be lucky enough to go on to have sports related careers, that by giving the best of themselves, they will always be winners. “We put a lot of value in the coach-athlete relationship because of the unique platform to teach valuable life lessons that cannot be taught even in the classroom.”

3 Tips For Rewarding Character

Model It

Be a positive example; be encouraging and respectful. Players will model what they see in their coach.

Reward It

When you see good behavior, call it out. Both the athlete and the team will appreciate you reinforcing it.

Just Do It

Create a special award to reward your “star character players” for their contributions to the team.

Tags: coaching, development, leadership

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