Seven Deadly Sins Leaders of Sport Federations Should Avoid Redux

Richard Hunkler, Ph.D.
Slippery Rock University

Let's see how the Sport Federations we talked about in the first article are handling the Seven Deadly Sins currently. This time around I am only going to talk about two Sports Federation - the NCAA and the USAWP. I have created a rating system involving images of the Tasmanian Devil so we can rate the organizations on each of the seven deadly sins:

        One devil means the organization is a casual sinner it knows right from wrong but it can't always do the right thing.
      Two devils means the organization is novice player and knows right from wrong but it can't help choosing wrong more than he/she does right.
    Three devils means the organization is at the same cross road that the Blues Guitar singer Robert Parker sold his soul to the devil to become the best Blues person - the organization can go either way.
  Four devils means the organization believes that choosing wrong is a much faster way to get to their goals than choosing right every time - probably the bottom line is choosing the all mighty dollar.
Five devils means the organization is entering the ninth circle of Dante Alighieri 's circles of hell in the Divine Comedy - the worst of those sport organization who betrayed their benefactors and their rank and file members.

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."


Comments: The NCAA still wants to have absolute control over the amateur sports in this country and they continually play the obstructionist in the training of Olympians and future Olympians!


Comments: They are so busy with hiring and firing that they don't even have time to bring the AWP back in to the fold. To do the ODP right you need all the time you can muster.

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.


Comments: This could have been a zero or one devil ranking if the NCAA were as interested in furthering other sports as they are in furthering their cash cows basketball and football. Also they could have reduced the number of devils in their ranking if they were to put the "student" back in the term "student athletes.


Comments: The USAWP is still lusting after Olympic gold medals and the only reason they didn't receive four or five devils was because of the ODP program and after all they are the NGB of the sport of water polo.

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.


Comments: They think the Sunshine Law is for city, county, and state government peons and not for academicians. It could have been only two devils if revenue generating schools would get the same punishments as non-revenue generating schools. It could turn into four devils if schools with the same rules infractions don't start getting the same punishments.


Comments: The people at the USAWP think that transparency is a dirty word and they think close door meetings are the way everyone does business. The Board of Directors thinks that what people don't know can't hurt them but it could hurt the USAWP.

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.


Comments: The NCAA doesn't have tunnel vision it has no vision. They have been working on a way to have a football championship for over 20 years and they are still no closer to a solution than when they started. The only thing they really know how to do is raise their revenue by raising the the number of teams in the basketball championship.


Comments: The USAWP doesn't have tunnel vision they have mono vision. It appears they believe new problems can be solved by the same old solutions. The number of women's teams are increasing while the number of men's teams are not, so what does the Board of Directors do about it? They increase the number of board members to nine with six men and only three women?

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.


Comments: The people at the NCAA must have invented arrogance if they think the rank and file members are going to believe that having a sports clinic at each championship is more important than increasing the number of teams that participate in a championship. Take that money used to sponsor sports clinic (coaches' transportation to clinic, coaches' hotel accommodations, coaches' per diem, and coaches' give away clothing apparel) and use it to bring a couple of more teams to a championship. I am pretty certain that the coaches that live in the area where the championships are held would be willing to do the clinics for free provided the money for the clinics were used to bring more teams to a championship.


Comments; The current CEO for the USAWP is the poster boy for arrogance. I think he really believes that the mantra of "USA; USA; USA" excuses his arrogant behavior and hides his lack of knowledge of the protocols at a FINA tournament. His behavior is very similar to that of the adult with the children in the Ally Bank commercials. If you are not familiar with these commercials they can be found at the following link:

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.


Comments: Haven't ever caught the NCAA telling lies but they don't have to because they are a monopoly!


Comments: So many people have told me so many times that some of the people at the USAWP have lied to them that it makes me believe that it might be true. No one likes to call other people liars but everyone knows what one rotten apple of a liar can do to an organization. Thus those one or two rotten apples need to be removed from our organization so the USAWP will be able to fulfill the dreams we have for our sport. Please don't misunderstand me because most of the people who work for the USAWP are hard working, truthful individuals but as I said earlier it only takes one rotten apple to mess things up..

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.


Comments: An organization that hires Trevor Freeman to write water polo articles for it's water polo web site cannot be all that ignorant but then you read their recruitment rules and you say this organization has no common sense. Their recruitment rules usually punish the good with the bad. It kind of reminds you of a teacher writing on the blackboard with his or her back to the class. A student makes a rude comment who cannot be identified by the teacher, so the teacher keeps the entire class after school? Like I said no common sense and unlike the teacher the NCAA knows who are breaking the rules..


Comments: Once or twice in a decade the CEO publishes a sort of Sate of the Union message on the USAWP web site and you think this person is very articulate and maybe this person is not ignorant as you thought he was. Then you hear horror stories of some of the decisions he has been making as the USAWP CEO and you skin starts to crawl. His words may articulate skin smoothing but his actions certainly do not. The icing on the cake is his "Ask Chris" column on the USAWP web site. Did you know he was outsourcing several of the questions he is receiving. Maybe we should rename the column to Ask Chris or His Staffers or the US National Team Coaches or the ODP Staff or Swimming Coaches from Off the Street? The reason the USAWP gets five devils instead of three is because the old Board of Directors, the Board without the three newest members, need to share the blame for the CEO's actions. After all is said and done these are the people who recruited, hired, and are keeping the present CEO.

Email Coach Hunkler at [email protected]