Seven Deadly Sins Leaders of Sport Federations Should Avoid!

Richard Hunkler, Ph.D.
Slippery Rock University

The title probably should read, "Seven Deadly Sins Leaders of Sport Federations Should Avoid Like the Bubonic Plague." Because similar to a plague, any kind of plague, these deadly sins can spread from the leaders to the members like a wild fire, and with devastating consequences not only to the pocket book of the organization but also to the number of youth participating in the sport. If there are no players there is no pay, and if there is no pay there are no way the leaders can play.

The first deadly sin is Gluttony. This may be defined as inordinate desire to control more than the organization requires. A first example would be an organization controlling where a team can stay at a National tournament or controlling the brand of equipment a team can use in a National tournament,

A second example involves the NCAA. Many years ago most all amateur sports were under the umbrella of an organization called the Amateur Athletic Union, the AAU. Well, the NCAA thought the AAU had too much power over amateur sports, so they petitioned the United States Congress to break up the AAU into individual sports. That is exactly what Congress did; thus, giving birth to USA Water Polo Inc and many other such sport organizations.

Now that the NCAA has morphed itself into the old AAU, the only difference I can see in those two organizations is that the AAU tried to bilk money from all sports equally to finance their Tom foolery, and the NCAA is trying to cater to a few cash cow sports to finance their shenanigans. Nietzsche said it best when he said something like, "If you are going to fight monsters stupid, then don't be so stupid that you turn into a monster yourself."

The second deadly sin is Lust. This may be defined as the disproportionate craving for the pleasure of satisfying one goal. A primary example would be placing 95% of your time, money, and energy into trying to win a Men's or Women's gold medal in the Olympics. If you have to have one gold, I mean goal, then make it something that will truly benefit the entire membership day in and day out - say, a goal such as spending 100% of our time, money, and energy in trying to have as many youth in this country playing water polo as there are playing soccer. I promise you that satisfying such a goal would eventually turn into Olympic gold.

The third deadly sin is Secrecy. This is the left hand, the leadership, not letting the right hand, the membership, know what is really going on in the organization. A municipality's business in this country is regulated by the Sunshine Law, which means that the majority of the municipality's decisions have to be made in open meetings. Wouldn't it be grand if this law applied to sports organizations as well?

Keeping members in the dark too long can cause all kinds of bad things to happen - some members become withdrawn with both their voices and their wallets; some become angry and blame every action or inaction on the leadership, thus, venting this anger with frugal contributions; and some even become delusional and believe that in every message board post or deleted post there is a leadership conspiracy leading to a dearth of cash gifts.

In other words, secrecy may not be just unhealthy to the members, but it could also be unhealthy to the finances of the sport organization as well. We already know it could be very unhealthy to the officers who are elected by those unhealthy members.

The fourth deadly sin is Tunnel Vision. This means the inability to act on a diversity of ideas that are presented by people from all around this country - that is, people from the west coast, the east coast, and even people from no-coast. Some people in certain parts of the country may think they have a monopoly on what is good for water polo, but I assure you they don't.

A prime example of tunnel vision happened in the '80's when I presented a proposal for USWP to sponsor a National Women's Collegiate Water Polo Championship. The first time I presented this proposal I was almost laughed out of the committee meeting. I was given the impression that some one from the East Coast couldn't possible come up with a constructive suggestion concerning water polo, or maybe it was because many of the men's coaches thought women's water polo was a joke.

It took me three years to get the proposal passed. I would still be trying to get the "good ole' boys" to vote for it today, if it were not for several people on the West Coast who publicly supported this unpopular proposal - people like Sandy Nita and Rich Corso. One of the sad or neo-tragic outcomes of this unwarranted, sexist skirmish is that the NCAA men's four team Championship has become the real joke.

I know what you're thinking. This is no longer the '80's, so get over it Doc - I will continue to remind you of the women's water polo past, so it will never happen again.

The fifth deadly sin is Arrogance. This is an excessive belief in one's own judgments and abilities. Nine out of ten times this causes the sin of secrecy. When the leadership begins to truly believe that they know better than anyone else what is and what is not best for the sport, they will start to tell members things based on the need to know principle - I need to know it and you don't.

Discussions are always centered on the arrogant person not on the person that needs to know something. For example if a person hasn't time to talk about the problem because he or she is getting ready to go to Europe on the sport organizations' dole. Then that person might be arrogant. If a person doesn't want to talk to you because his or her mind is already made up. Then that person might be arrogant. If a person gets angry when you try to point out a weakness in his or her argument. Then that person might be arrogant. You know I think I would almost rather be a red-neck than an arrogant-neck; a.k.a., an arrogant leader.

The sixth deadly sin is Lying. This is a leaders inability to tell the members the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The difficulty with a lie is that it destroys the communication between the person who tells the lie and a person who is told the lie. Once person A catches person B telling a lie, a seed of doubt is implanted in person A's mind, so that every time person B tells person A something that doubt blossoms into the following full blown thought, "Is that person really telling me the truth or is he or she lying to me again?"

If members of a sport federation cannot believe their leaders then who the devil can they believe? A sport federation in which the leaders and members can't trust each other is similar to a water polo team in which the so called stars won't pass the ball to the non-stars even when they are in a position to make an easy score. Both of these situations are a lose, lose proposition.

The seventh deadly sin is Ignorance. A stupid person is one who doesn't know and who is incapable of finding out, and an ignorant person is one who doesn't know and who doesn't want to find out. They say knowledge is a dangerous thing, which may or not be true, but I am certain that the lack of knowledge can do world wide damage to a sport federation's image and their power base.

There is no excuse for the leadership of a sports federation not to answer legitimate questions proposed by the members of the organization. It really doesn't matter where the question comes from - an email, a message board, a telephone call, or even snail mail. When the leadership refuses to answer questions it sends out the following messages to the membership: 1) the leaders don't know the answers; 2) the leaders don't want the members to know the answers; 3) the leaders are too busy to give members the answers; and/or 4) the leaders believe they do not have to give the members answers.

This could easily mean that ignorance runs rampant among the leaders in a sports organization, and the members should reward this ignorance at the ballot box by first nominating a new slate of non-ignorant leaders, and second by electing those new non-ignorant leaders.

Email Coach Hunkler at [email protected]