What should I do?

November 20, 2017

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Today’s Leadership Minute was written by: Ashley Armstrong, Soccer Coach at Colorado United in Littleton, Colorado and a student in the Leadership and Team Dynamics class at Ohio University, taught by Jay Martin, Men’s Soccer Coach, Ohio Wesleyan University and a Founder of our Ross Leadership Institute.

Have you ever asked yourself “What should I do” in a difficult situation? What is right and fair?

Integrity is an important characteristic for a coach and their players to possess. Integrity “is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes. It connotes a deep commitment to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the circumstances.”. (Hopkin, 2012).  Even if it may affect the result of the game, it is important that coaches think about what is fair for all players and develop players as quality people first.

Prior to a must-win to win the league high school girls soccer game, one of the players decided to go to a party where there was alcohol involved. The team, league and school rule was that there is zero tolerance for alcohol and if they are caught, they would be suspended from the team. Prior to the season, each player signed a code of conduct indicating they would abide by this rule, along with others. The player was a junior and a starting center back that rarely, if not ever, gets subbed off the field and was the “glue” to the back line.

Word got back to the coaching staff that this player and some other students at the school were at this party and that they were drinking alcohol. As a coach and leader, I was faced with a decision to make. After discussing the situation with the head coach of the program and school athletic director, I began by pulling the player aside after training the day after that weekend and asked her if she was at a party. She indicated she was and admitted that she was drinking alcohol. As tough a decision as it is to suspend a starting player for a must-win game that would give the team the league title, it would not have been fair to not follow the rules and win with a player who broke the rules of the league. The player was very apologetic and knew that what she did was not okay and that she should not play because of it. She also felt bad that she let her teammates down. However, she was also upset that she could not play. I ended up suspending her for 3 games, as the rule stated. The school also suspended her for 2 days from school. Other players stepped up to the challenge and played well and worked hard for the team.

The team lost the game 2-1 that same week. Both the player and her parents came to support the team. After the game, the parents approached me as a coach and thanked me for teaching their daughter that there are consequences for her actions that affect both her and the people around her. They appreciated the integrity that was shown.

The team ended the season in second place, after winning all but one game. The following year this player tried out again and made the team. She became a solid leader on the team, making good decisions and supported her teammates because she knew the consequences. To this day, I still believe this was a learning opportunity for this student athlete and she became a better person because of it.

What is right for the team’s success and what is right for the development of quality people can be separate. While it may hurt the team, it is only fair for a player who breaks the rules to not play over someone who follows all the rules and works hard day in and day out. Being a good leader means doing the right thing, no matter the situation. “Managers who are excessively passionate and not detail or process oriented often over promise and under deliver. …These managers may be hard working and have good intentions, but they are not trusted because their track records of delivery are poor.” (DePersis & Lewis, 2013). If a coach’s philosophy is to teach their players to be good citizens and people, but does not do anything when a player makes a poor decision, are they really living up to their philosophy? A good leader must show integrity and expect that their followers show integrity in their decision making as well. Leaders who show integrity will gain more followers in the long run and develop better people for the future.

“There are many things you can lack and still steer clear of danger. Integrity isn’t one of them. Establish a set of sound ethics policies, integrate them into all business processes, communicate them broadly to all employees, and make clear that you will not tolerate any deviation from any of them. Then live by them.” (Hopkin, 2012).


DePersis D., Lewis A. (2013) Integrity and Leadership. In: Amann W., Stachowicz-Stanusch A. (eds) Integrity in Organizations. Humanism in Business Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London

Hopkin, M. R. (2012, July 07). Leadership and integrity. Retrieved November 10, 2017, from https://leadonpurposeblog.com/2012/01/21/leadership-and-integrity/

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