Monday, August 5, 2013

What does "The Golden Rule" have to do with coaching youth soccer?

"You're incompetent!"  "You're wrong, and that's it."  "That's a crazy idea,  Were you serious?"  We've all heard it.  We might even have said it, if even to ourselves.  I know I have on occasion.  But is it right?  Is it ever justified?

When did it become OK for our interpersonal conduct at sport to be on a lower level than the rest of our day?

Like everything else in life, participation in sports involves relationships that need nurturing and respect.

The Golden Rule.  This might be the absolute one thing that can make your life easier and more successful when you're involved in sports.  Actually, it makes your life easier with whatever you're involved in. 

Simply stated, The Golden Rule is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".  It's very nature demands that your reverse the situation before acting, forcing the realization that your relationships are not
one-sided.  You are forced to govern your own emotions and assess the other party before engaging them.  When you respect the other half of the discussion they are left with two options; respect you back or look silly while attacking.

The Golden Rule has often been credited to Jesus, but it's present in the Old Testament (Tobit 4:15, Sirach 31:15)  as well as documents from many other faiths.  In my opinion, The Golden Rule is not religious so much as it is social and logical in terms of being productive and building relationships.

"When did it become OK for our interpersonal conduct at sport to be on a lower level than the rest of our day?"

It's not based on religion, but rather your own values.  The Golden Rule is universally applicable.

But let's be honest ... it's very human to find it very difficult to apply this at all times.  I know I struggle to apply it 24/7/365.  I try and I hope to have the wisdom to apply it, but emotions cloud things sometimes and off you go.  I like to think I am relatively consistent with it, but not perfect.

What does this have to do with coaching?

You are coaching an 8 year old girl.  If you are the 8 year old girl, how would you like ot be treated?  To execute The Golden Rule, you need to put yourself in their shoes before speaking.  Same with parents, officials, club executives.  And, conversely, they would hopefully use The Golden Rule as a guideline in dealing with you.

The good news is that living/coaching by The Golden Rule will make your coaching life easier.  The bad news is the people you are dealing with may not subscribe to the same philosophy, but it is still better for you to operate from the high ground.  You are committed to setting a good example for your players and the other party's mandate should not affect your behaviour.

Easier said than done.  I know that , but as a coach you have to strive to be above the noise.  If somebody doesn't apply the Golden Rule in dealing with you, you may have to turn the other cheek to keep yourself in check.  Even in a heated situation where you don't appreciate how you are being treated, applying The Golden Rule will keep you on the good side of the issue.

There are 2 possible negatives to The Golden Rule.
  1. A person who has mastered the art of empathy can skillfully use it to manipulate people.  Slippery salespeople and good con-men use empathy and may even disguise their actions as being under the umbrella of The Golden Rule.  On a sports level, it might be seen by deceitful coaches in recruiting and/or releasing players, abuse, acquiring sponsors, etc.  
  2. What if the person is accustomed to being treated poorly and has grown to accept it as the norm?  If he expects to be treated poorly and applies the Golden Rule, he will not notice he is treating you poorly.   Remember, the standard is set by the person's own values.  
If you are worried about whether your own personal values have been damaged by previous experiences, you can look to a higher source so you are no longer the standard for your behaviour.
You can aim for this; (John 13:34) "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." There may be people in your life that you respect and they might be the standard you set for yourself.  Maybe a motto of some kind.  You might use Rotary International's Four-Way Test as a guide post.  A vision or mission statement for your program may serve as a framework for everybody to structure their discussions and/or behaviour around.  I am going to assume you get my point and move on.

"The Golden Rule is universally applicable."

For other beliefs, your can see how The Golden Rule is expressed:

This may all sound very non-sporty to the reader, and that's OK.  But if you've ever been in a position of having to oversee coaches and deal with team problems, the issues have nothing to do with soccer and everything to do with damaged relationships and poor communication.

In summary, you never lose when you sincerely treat players and parents as you would have them treat you.  It may require you to take the long way towards a goal or do without something on the short term, but your actions will always be defensible and you will be respected as a coach, and a person.

I took a philosophy course at Brock University in 2007.  The Golden Rule has always intrigued me so when we were able to choose seminar topics where we led the discussion, I chose that.  This was my document to start the discussion:

The Deep Beauty of the Golden Rule  by R.M. MacIver

The Golden Rule simply states “Do to others as you would have them do to you”. 

MacIver writes “This is the only rule that stands by itself in the light of its own reason, the only rule that can stand by itself in the naked, warring universe, in the face of contending values of men and groups.” (pg 180)

The Golden Rule focuses on behaviour rather than actions. MacIver poses the argument that converting does not work, hence the Golden Rule does not attempt to convert anyone to anything.  It teaches us to evaluate our own values and how we pursue our values.

In order to convert another to our moral code we may resort to having to fraud, bribe or dominate the other party. This would lead us to compromise our own morals, meaning our morals can never be universally accepted on their own merits. “We could only make it falsely tyrannous” (pg 180).  The Golden Rule could not, would not, compromise our own morals, because it is a principle by which to live, it is not about action but about approach

The deep beauty of the Golden Rule is that it forces you to test yourself before moving on to others. “…instead of attacking the will that is in other men, it offers their will a new dimension”  (pg 180) You are forced to expand your vision and see yourself in new relationships.  If you would disapprove of being treated the same way that you would treat another, your own standards would dictate that you are mistreating the other person.

In seeing yourself in the place of others it saves you “…from the corruption that comes for the arrogance of detachment and exclusiveness…” (pg 181)

MacIver argues that adherence to the Golden rule is not a solution, hence does not fail or succeed, but is a way of life, how we approach life and how we treat others.

Since our application of the Golden Rule depends on our own values, any negative aspects of our values will now be shown in our treatment of others.

Seeing ourselves as right and others as wrong may lead to inconsistency in the Golden Rule’s application.  MacIver argues it is not an issue of right or wrong, but on our awareness of how we would like to be treated.

Churches, social leaders and governments are well documented in expecting tolerance when they are in the minority and practice intolerance when in the majority.

In cases of intolerance and inconsistency it is the values of the individual that fail, not the Golden Rule.  The Golden Rule only demands that you reverse the situation before taking action on others. The Golden Rule does not dictate how we act, but how we behave.  By switching positions with the other person we can easily determine whether we consider an action is right or wrong, with respect to our own values.