The theme this week has been Living with Honor. I chose that theme because I was asked to speak at the National Honor Society induction ceremony at the high school in my town this past Wednesday. I thought that theme was fitting for the podcast, video, and blog post since my mindset was so focused on the concept of honor as I was writing, rewriting and preparing for my speech.
I was going to write this post with many of the same ideas and quotes that I discussed in this past Monday’s episode of the Great Quotes for Coaches podcast and in Wednesday’s video on the SlamDunk Success YouTube channel.
However, I remembered that I wrote a post a few years ago called “Honor Calls” that dealt with one aspect of honor, but with a little different twist than what I talked about this week. I did an updated re-post of that post a couple of years ago. I thought it would be good to revisit that post this week.
In the post, I told two stories illustrating the concept of honor calls. I have updated a couple of elements in the post, but for the most part, it is how it was when I wrote it in 2015 and in 2021.
Interestingly enough, I also talked about this concept in Episode 72 of the Great Quotes for Coaches podcast. In the podcast episode, I revealed something about the young goalkeeper in the second story that I do not reveal about him here in the post. Check out the episode if you would like to hear who the keeper was and why I didn’t reveal that information in the post below.
I have been a high school/middle school/youth coach for over forty years and was an athletic director for twelve years. I am also one of the speakers with Proactive Coaching. In many of our presentations, we talk about the importance of having honesty and integrity. These are indispensable qualities for anyone in a leadership role to have, and they are critical for teams to possess if they are going to develop to be the best they can be. One of the things we sometimes talk about when discussing honesty and integrity is a concept called Honor Calls.
Honor Calls can occur in any sport at any given time. An honor call is when a person knows that something happened that other people don’t know happened that has given his or her team an undeserved advantage. The honorable thing to do is to call oneself on it and let the official know what really happened.
For example, when a golfer is in deep rough and takes a practice swing and hits his ball and it moves ever so slightly but no one else saw it, the honorable thing to do would be to alert the officials and take a stroke for that mis-hit. That is an honor call.
On the Biggest of Stages…
Those of us on the Proactive Coaching team have seen and heard of honor calls in some very intense competitions through the years. One of the biggest that comes to mind was in the sport of volleyball here in my home state of Montana in a state championship game quite a few years ago.
Manhattan Christian High School was playing in the fifth & final game of the state championship. Late in the game a Manhattan Christian player went up in the air at the net to block the opponent’s attempted kill. The ball glanced off the player’s fingers ever so slightly and went out of bounds. The official did not see the touch and called it out of bounds—point and ball to Manhattan Christian.
Honor calls had been a part of the Manhattan Christian volleyball team’s culture for a few years, so it was not a strange concept for them. However, this was the fifth game of a very close state championship.
Still, people of integrity walk their talk—their actions align with their words & standards—no matter the situation. The player went over to the official and said, “I touched that ball.” The call was reversed.
Manhattan Christian ended up winning the match and the state championship, but they won much more than that. They won the respect of everyone involved by showing that what matters most is not winning or losing, but doing so in an honorable way.
as Well as on Smaller Stages
Recently, I saw an honor call happen on a much smaller scale, yet it was so important all the same. It happened in a U12 recreational league soccer game in which I was coaching.
The ball was kicked toward the net but was headed out of bounds. Our goalkeeper, not knowing if it was headed out of bounds or into the net, tried to stop the ball, and it looked like it may have touched his hands. It was not so certain from my vantage point, but my first thought was that he probably had touched it.
After the keeper had retrieved the ball from the out of bounds area behind the goal and was walking back onto the field, the referee asked him if he had touched it. His first reaction was to say “No.” He then paused for a split-second and said, “Yes, I touched it. It’s their ball.” The ball was awarded to the other team for a corner kick.
I must admit that when I saw the play happen, my first thought was, “I don’t think the referee saw the keeper touch the ball. Whew! It will be our ball not the opponent’s.”
When I saw and heard the referee and keeper have their verbal exchange, it was a slap in my face. Here was a 12-year-old doing the right thing, telling the truth to the referee, while my first reaction was to think, “Nice! We got away with one.”
My second reaction was one of great pride that our keeper would tell the truth in this situation. He admitted later that his first reaction was to say “No” when asked if it touched his hands. He said, “But then I thought, ‘That’s not the right thing to do,’ and I told the official that I had touched it.”
A Lesson I Needed to Learn
What a great moment! Here this 12-year-old boy had the fairly natural reaction in the moment to influence the call to go his way to gain an advantage. Then his honesty and integrity stepped in and said, “No. You need to do the right thing.” What a great lesson he learned about honesty and integrity and always doing what is right.
More importantly, what a great lesson he taught me and anyone else who noticed it.
Here I am, the person who is coaching a team, trying to teach positive life lessons of character & integrity to my players, as well as someone who speaks to schools and teams all the time about behaving the right way, and my first reaction was to hope that we got away with the ref not seeing that he touched the ball—in a U12 recreational soccer game, no less!
Shame on me!
And thank you to the 12-year-old boy who taught me that it is always best to do the right thing and to make the Honor Call.
Have you ever done anything like Honor Calls with your team, or have you seen others do them?
Have you ever reacted in a similar way to how I did when you received an undeserved advantage in a contest?
Leave a comment below or email me at email@example.com and let us know.