Why Even Field? A Message from the Founder

The emphasis on getting results at any cost is pervasive. We are bombarded with the message that there are only winners and losers in life, and you better not be a loser. It’s seldom about “winning with integrity”, it’s about doing “whatever it takes to win”. And, that message is being heard by the next generation of leaders.

In its 2012 Report Card on Ethics of American Youth, The Josephson Institute found 57 percent of high school students agreed with the statement “In the real world, successful people do what they have to do to win, even if others consider it cheating.”

Many parents believe this, too. They contend that to compete in today’s world, you have little choice but to “play the game” the way others are playing it, even if you think it’s morally wrong. That you would be a fool to hold yourself to a higher standard than others in a competitive situation.

This perception results in a negative spiral. The more that we expect others to cheat, cut corners, circumvent rules, and try to deceive us, the more accepted those behaviors become.

Core values are being sacrificed in an effort to win. The concept of an even playing field is being lost.

How do we turn this around?

Restoring trust in sports and society won’t happen simply by instituting new rules and regulations. Rules have their place, but what is needed is a change in our thinking.

One place to start is the youth sports culture, where the “whatever it takes to win” message has influenced the coaching and parenting of young athletes.

For pre-teen athletes especially, youth sports is more about life lessons, than just team records. When adults emphasize winning, rather than winning with integrity, kids get the message that only the outcome is important, regardless of the means taken to secure it.

Even Field’s message is that The Way You Win Matters. The way you compete, reach goals, interact with people, and do everything else in life, matters, because it shows others if you are a person of character who can be trusted.

Young athletes should be having fun, making friends, learning skills, and developing character qualities that will help them on and off the field. The process matters more than the short-term. Developing positive character traits and habits is what’s important.

No human trait will be more important in the 21st century than integrity. And, no rule, regulation, or law can compel it.

You can’t force someone to act fairly and responsibly. Ethics is a choice.

If we want our children to become individuals whom others will trust; if we want them to believe in a respect for other people, a sense of fairness, and competing honestly and responsibly, then we have to show them that we consider these concepts important.

Young people are hearing about all the bad behavior that occurs in sports and society. What about all the positive examples of character and integrity? Most athletes compete responsibly and win on merit. Young people should be hearing their stories, too.

Through Even Field presentations, forums, videos, and other programs, we continually engage young people, and the adults in their lives, with positive messaging about character. We interact with them on topics such as sportsmanship, fair and responsible competition, respect for others, how to lead, the value of teamwork, and the importance of courage, trust, and compassion.

Our kids need to hear that their character and integrity matter in sports and in life. They have to see that it will make a positive difference in their lives and the lives of others. It has to be important to them.

Adults are the critical factor. Parents, coaches and other mentors are vital in modeling and reinforcing ethical behavior on and off the field. Our kids aren’t just listening to what we say, they are watching what we do.

I’ve never been more inspired to make a difference.

For many years, I’ve spoken and written about ethics and fair play. I’ve lamented the lack of sportsmanship being shown. Talking isn’t enough. It’s time to act.

Let’s make character and integrity the priority in youth sports. Let’s inspire young people to develop the desire and courage to be honorable and trustworthy on and off the field.

Even Field is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization. If you believe in our mission and would like to help, or would like to find out how to bring our Peer into Character® programs to your community, please get in touch.

Thank you,

Chuck Wilson

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