Competition can do strange things to people. I’ve seen it happen time and again. When the stakes are raised, the competitive claws come out – athletes go ape, coaches go crazy, judges get jumpy, and it can sometimes feel like everyone has drunk a little too much competitive spirit. Rarely is this intentional, of course. But it still serves to have a reminder of what we expect from ourselves and each other as athletes, coaches, and judges when it comes to competition time. In fact, I can sum up my expectation for each of those three groups in just one word: integrity.
But here are a few more words to help remind us how integrity can manifest itself within our behaviors. Here is a competition manifesto for athletes, coaches, and judges:
I will concentrate on myself. I will not be concerned with what the person next to me is doing, what his or her judge is saying, or how many reps he or she has completed. I will focus on my own game.
I will respect the standards. I appreciate the standards are there for the benefit of me, the athlete. The standards make things fair, measurable, and comparable. They are not the enemy. I will work with them, not against them.
I will respect my judge. I understand my judge is there to uphold standards that are in reality an extension of my own standards. I will show respect to my judge at all times by listening to what he or she says and accepting his or her word as final.
I will not look for ways to bend the rules. Instead, I will look for ways to be better within them. I will apply common sense and work within what I am given.
I will not cheat or lie. I know if I cheat in competition that I not only cheat myself, but cheat others, too. I will be honest in my range of motion, my reps, my times, my scores, my age, and everything else besides. I understand cheating will not be tolerated.
I will be a gracious winner. I will be humble in success and thankful to those who support and help me in any and every way.
I will be a gracious loser. I will not assign blame to others. I will learn from what I could have done better, from my coach, and from those who were better on the day.
I will support others. I will be confident in myself and will not put obstacles in the way of others. I will support others at every opportunity.
I will enjoy myself. I will enjoy myself whatever happens, and do my best to ensure others that cross my path have a positive experience, too.
I will do my best. I will give my all every time, and be happy knowing I have done so.
I will lead by example. I will be the coach, athlete, and judge I want my coaches, athletes, and judges to be. And I will be the coach, athlete, and judges I would want to encounter in competition.
I will communicate expectations. I will make sure my athletes, judges, and coaches know what is expected of them. And make sure they know what they can expect from me.
I will focus on the athletes. I will remember that whatever happens, this is about the athletes above all. It’s not money, the coaches, the judges, or anything else.
I will be responsible for my athletes. I will take it as my utmost responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of each of my athletes.
I will be a coach. I am a coach, first and foremost. Whether working with an international-level athlete or a competition newbie, I will be proactive and forthcoming with my assistance and advice. My role as a coach in competition is to get the best out of the athlete, whatever that takes.
I will treat everyone the same. I know that applying different rules for different people creates divisions and disagreements. No matter the level of competitor, I will treat each as equal to one another, and ensure others do so, too.
I will back my athletes. They are why I do what I do. They are a direct reflection of my coaching. I will be right behind each of them with coaching, support and encouragement, and whatever else they need.
I will back my judges. I am fully aware that none of this could happen without their help. I appreciate that judging is a thankless and sometimes daunting task. I will make it clear that the judge’s word is final, and will back this up should the need arise.
I will foster a spirit of community. I will instill that this is the best atmosphere for everyone to thrive.
I will instill these positive behaviors all year around. I understand the importance of encouraging positive behaviors and expectations all year ‘round. In this way the integrity, virtuosity, and positivity I expect during competition will simply be an extension of what I ask for every day.
I will be informed. I will know the rules. I will read the movement standards and watch the videos. I will understand the rep schemes and be able to answer any reasonable questions.
I will be professional. I will make each and every call truthfully and to the best of my knowledge and ability.
I will be undivided. I will center all my attention on the athlete in front of me, no matter what is happening or who is around me. This athlete is my only priority.
I will be impartial. When I step onto the floor to judge, that is exactly what I am. I am a judge. Not a coach. Not a supporter. Not a friend. Therefore, I will not encourage my athletes while judging, as this divides both my attention and my loyalties.
I will be confident. I will be confident in my duties as a judge and give the athlete confidence in me.
I will be clear. I will clearly explain what I expect of the athlete before the workout begins. I will count reps clearly throughout. I will visually and audibly signal no-reps to the athlete, and will be ready to succinctly confirm why if asked.
I will be precise. I will aim to provide short, sharp, and simple instructions to athletes where this is required.
I will be consistent. I will be consistent across the board, from my standards, to my communications, to my counting methods.
I will be unwavering. I will stick to my decisions. I will not be persuaded to look at videos or engage in conversations with onlookers who disagree.
I will be helpful. I will do everything I can to help the athlete meet and exceed the standards, and make their experience a happy one.
Each of these points centers on integrity. Integrity takes a lifetime to piece together and just one small action to shatter. This fact makes it all the more important to work hard and keep the integrity of ourselves, each other, and what we do intact. Pledge yourself to this manifesto of integrity in competition, and you can expect the athletes, coaches, and judges around you to do the same.
Photos courtesy of Jorge Huerta Photography.