What Japan Taught Me This Fourth of July

Michael Scott = High Class Boss

Michael Scott = High Class Boss

I hope everyone had an outstanding Fourth of July! It is one of those days that can be passed off as a day off to eat grilled food and chill by the pool. 

Oddly enough the World Cup and the nation of Japan made a huge impression on me this week. I'll admit, I've paid about as much attention to the World cup as James Harden pays attention to the other side of the court, as much as Michael Scott paid attention to the quarterly business numbers, and as much attention fans from the team in Ohio pay attention to their overall cleanliness.

Point being I have only seen what my social media timeline has shown me. 

Japan player is excited to clean the locker room...or a he scored (Courtesy Mladen Antonov/Agence France-Presse)

Japan player is excited to clean the locker room...or a he scored (Courtesy Mladen Antonov/Agence France-Presse)

You may have heard and seen lots of recent photos and bits of information following one of the recent countries that have been knocked out. While many Americans are up in arms over our teams poor performance of not even getting into the field the nation of Japan fought to remain in contention for one of the biggest sporting tournaments in the world.. Unfortunately for them they took the loss this past Monday to Belgium  3-2. To add to the heart break they actually were knocked out by a late Belgium goal. A loss in the World Cup is devastating (wait and ponder the loss for four years!), but one in that fashion has to got to feel even worse. 

But it was after the game that stuck out to me. 

As coaches we say to players we must show class and character in both victory and defeat. That regardless of the situation we must show ourselves in the same manor. Easy to say, hard to do.

Following the loss, Japan showed high class. They picked up after themselves. Pro athletes picking up after themselves in the best way. They left the locker room in the Russian stadium spotless. Literally better than they they walked in. That shows tremendous leadership. No reports have come out indicating whether this order came from someone on the coaching staff, on the team itself, or whether it was one person affiliated with the team who took to making sure the nation of Japan was grateful to their Russian hosts. They showed incredible care of the facility which to me shows pride in who they are and what they represent. You don't do that because you have OCD, you do that because you have meaning for existence. A real sense of how the name on the front of the jersey, travel gear, bag, et-cetra  means something. I want to post this for just about every "travel' and "elite" team playing summer athletics. The young kids that take all the gear and travel for granted and the entitled attitude of today. What also stands out is how the team left a note following their leave in the locker room simply saying "спасибо", which in Russian means "Thank You". So they not only acted like professionals after a loss and cleaned up their locker room (something I'm sure the stadium pays people to do), but they left a note to acknowledge what was done for them by the hosts. That goes above and beyond. An act of real champions and people of character. 

Japan's locker room following the loss that knocked them out of the World Cup (Courtesy of CNN)

Japan's locker room following the loss that knocked them out of the World Cup (Courtesy of CNN)

Fans of Japan clean up the stadium after watching their team (Courtesy of   Agence France-Presse)

Fans of Japan clean up the stadium after watching their team (Courtesy of 

Agence France-Presse)

One must ask why the players of Japan did this. How about their own people and fans. Following a game in the pool play round on June 19th the fans of Japan stayed around to clean up after themselves after a win. (Video here) . Typically when we see behavior from a group or child we can more than likely point back to the higher ups (leaders/parents talking to you). The people of Japan showed that after a win and something to celebrate they should still represent who they are to the highest quality, of course then after the loss a few weeks later the team would add to the legacy and take up what their fans had started. 

For all the negative in the world and sports there is still high class to be shown. it is possible to win, lose, play while acting on character. So yes as weird as it sounds I learned a lesson from the Japanese this week of America's Independence. I'll leave with a quote from the great Paul Bryant (former Alabama football coach).

"Show class, have pride, and display character. If you do, winning takes care of itself."
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Let's all take a page out of the Japan playbook as we live, play, and execute our life's work.

Steven Hovermale