Cricket, Sandpaper and Leadership – Who’s Fooling Who?

Ball Tampering…. Cheating… Caught on camera and broadcast to the world!

Steve Smith as Captain of the Australian Cricket Team touring here in South Africa, Cameron Bancroft the guilty party caught on camera and a few others find themselves in very deep waters right now and it’s going to be a bumpy ride, no doubt!

As I read a few comments and tweeted one or two of my own, I couldn’t help reflecting on where this could all have started going wrong. Not this match, not ball tampering, but cheating … I guess one would have to go back thousands of years and I don’t have the time or inclination to do that right now but my feeling is this, it all began when the opportunity for someone influential to make an extraordinary amount of money from an end result, entered the sporting world.

Of course, this impacts Politics, Business, Relationships and every other area of our lives but for now, let’s consider Sport. The one guy who epitomises true Coaching and who has influenced my life as a Speaker, Coach and Leadership Trainer, is Coach John Wooden.

Do yourself a favour and watch his TED talk sometime and note what he says about how, although he won all those games and championships, there were still alumni who were upset with him because the team hadn’t won by a certain margin and he suspects they had a material motive that was driving this! That was back in the 1930’s so who knows when it all actually began, but I suspect the moment there was money to be made by a win/loss or margin etc, there was always going to be exceptional pressure on those who could possibly swing the result by those who stood to gain.

Young children in schools today are taught for the most part to ‘win-at-all-costs’ and that pressure is placed on them by caring and loving parents, coaches and peers whom they respect and look up to. Violence, sledging, cheating and anything else is used to manipulate the result in favour of a team or individual so that satisfied fans pay their fees, TV channels receive viewership, advertisers achieve their end objective of driving sales and more lucrative contracts are offered to the pawns on the field of play.

Don’t get me wrong, these pawns have a choice just like anyone else and thankfully there are some incredible sports men and women who have chosen to remain people of integrity, honesty and character despite immense pressure. However, where the ‘Win-at-all-cost’ approach remains intact, young children will be influenced and directed like a young tree exposed to the wind and when they are older, they will be easily influenced to ‘Cheat-at-all-costs’. They are not ‘leaders’, neither are the coaches that ‘lead’ them or the administrators that ‘lead’ them if their Intention is to win at all costs.

True Leaders and Coaches like John Wooden, make every effort for each individual to become the best version of themselves – to reach as close to their highest potential as possible. I think it was John who said something like ‘If you win on the scoreboard but lose in your heart, you’re a loser but if you lose on the scoreboard and win in your heart, you’re a winner.’ John’s philosophy worked and he won a record number of Championships living by his values. I’m afraid, the ‘shock and amazement’ reverbing across the sporting world this morning is only because these folks got caught ‘red handed’ – not because it happened.

Rugby will be next…

There are so many 50/50 calls made by decision makers that it is very easy to influence the outcome of a game and the income of a few greedy manipulators. Until the entire system is cleaned up, it will only get worse. New methods and means will be discovered and employed to ensure the result is influenced. My thought in passing…

Stop talking about leadership as if it’s some title or position to be attained, it’s a life to be lived and it takes considerable sacrifice and time. Start learning, living and then leading! We need influencers, leaders, and it starts with you and me and it starts at home!

Sean Willard

Hubby, Dad, Speaker, Coach

+27 82 335 4174