Many years ago, when I first graduated college, I was coaching a high school rugby team. I had already been a youth and high school baseball coach for a handful of years and a local high school needed a rugby coach. This was a much different experience than my previous coaching and not because baseball and rugby are two totally different sports.
The rugby team was comprised of kids that had a tough upbringing, were lucky to still be in high school, and had an uncertain future. Most of the team were seniors and didn’t know if they would be able to afford college or just jump right into a job to help their family cover living expenses.
While the team didn’t have the most talent, we had a lot of grit, determination, and hard work. The way the schedule worked out we had to play a game the day after senior prom. I had the team vote if we should play the day after and they all agreed and assured me they would be at the game on time and ready to play.
When gameday arrived, half the team didn’t show up. The other team had all their players, coaches, referees, and family and friends attend. We didn’t have enough players to play so we ended up forfeiting the game.
To say I was embarrassed, upset, and angry was an understatement. If you know me, you know that I take these types of things very seriously. Whether I’m coaching rugby players or a colleague at work, doing what you say and saying what you do is vitally important. At the end of the day all we have is our character and integrity.
What did we do? We cancelled the rest of the season and didn’t attend the playoffs. For many of these kids, this might have been the only chance they had to be part of something bigger than themselves, to be part of a great team. However, I thought it was much more important to teach them that to be part of something truly special, truly amazing, you must have integrity. It must guide them in every decision they make from this day forward. While it was a gut-wrenching decision, and one I still think about today, I think it was the right decision.
As Brene Brown says “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”