Well, by now, most sports fans and even casual observers of the sports world have learned about NBA superstar LeBron James' behavior and comments after losing a difficult series in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In short, LeBron didn't shake the other team's hands, left the locker room quickly, and didn't stand up to answer any post-game questions. To make matters worse, the next day, LeBron explained his actions this way: "If somebody beats you up, you're not going to congratulate them...I'm a competitor...It doesn't make sense for me to go over and shake somebody's hand."
A group called Positive Coaching Alliance pounced on the let-down by a player whom many kids look up to and used it as a proverbial teaching moment. PCA is dedicated to going across the country holding seminars for coaches on how to be positive teachers and mentors, as well as for parents on how to help their children achieve and compete in sports with the right perspective. In other words, teaching folks that being a type-A competitor and a gracious competitor are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they're intertwined at the essence of what sports is all about.
PCA Founder and Executive President Jim Thompson used LeBron's actions no so much to scold the all-star, who in his own right is only 24-years-old and still a very young man, but to use the mistake to reinforce with athletes, coaches and parents that sportsmanship must never take a back-seat to competitiveness.
PCA is worth checking out. Many youth sports leagues in America require coaches and parents to go through the training in order to lead teams or register their children for participation.
As most know, as well, our industry is a strong supporter of youth sports leagues. Its part of our culture, because our heritage is being part of the fabric of every community. Our companies support youth sports because of the character it teaches, the competition it provides and the simple fun of playing ball with your friends that it affords. It's a means to bring a neighborhood and a community together.
LeBron made a mistake. A mistake by a still maturing young man. He is a good and humble ambassador for the NBA. Hopefully, LeBron will figure this one out and do right by the young people who look up to him.
In the meantime, for the parents and coaches out there, LeBron has provided us all with a teachable moment on what it means to be a gracious competitor - whether on the athletic field, in the classroom or in the board room. And that even good people make mistakes. It's what they do about those mistakes that matters most.