Keith Davie on How Alliance University Athletics Builds Character

Keith Davie blog
Athletics Director Keith Davie

Alliance University Athletics Director Keith Davie shares how he and his coaching staff are committed to developing athletes who are prepared to compete successfully in sports and in life.

The Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC), the athletic conference to which we belong, annually awards the institution that has best displayed sportsmanship from their athletic teams. There have been jokes made that they would like to rename it the “Nyack College” award as we have won it so often that we are synonymous with sportsmanship. We have prided ourselves on establishing character in our student-athletes and it becomes evident in how our student-athletes are viewed by institutions with whom we compete. It has been that way and will only continue with our transition to Alliance University.

Athletics and Character

From an early age, I have heard the phrase, “Athletics builds character” and being an advocate for everything my coaches told me, I bought into that phrase. After coaching at the high school and collegiate level for over 30 years, I still believe that phrase and also believe that “character is revealed” through athletics. The importance of the installation of character by all those who pour into a student-athlete is paramount because when the stresses of life creep into a current life situation, the character traits they learned on the sports field or court will be revealed.

In an article by four-time Olympic medalist and coaching consultant Bo Hanson, the differentiating of personal versus performance character qualities points to the intricate marriage of how athletics both builds and reveals character. Personal character qualities such as being kind, generous, tough, honorable, determined, optimistic and empathic are honed in the competitive cauldron of athletics. As these characteristics are built through success, failure and the simple acts of competition, they become functional in the performance character qualities of perseverance, being self-disciplined, being competitive, accountable, focused, hard-working, mentally tough and brave. Those qualities result in athletes being resourceful, self-controlled, creative, seeking challenges, adaptable, confident, reliable, ambitious, and critical thinkers.

A Faith-based Foundation  

In a world where independent thinkers are needed, athletics creates a safe environment to develop these characteristics. The most important purveyor of these qualities are the support staff with whom they work. That ranges from their coaches to the athletic trainers, but is also greatly aided or hurt by their support from their families. The balance of performing for themselves compared to achieving to make family members proud often taints how the student-athlete develops in their character.

Character and Sportsmanship

As Christ-followers, character is at the core of why we do anything. When we develop poor personal character traits, it is from the perspective of “why” we compete in the first place. When our goals are to please God in our athletic endeavor, the personal characteristics of being kind, generous, tough, honorable, determined, optimistic and empathic create in us a joy for competition. As soon as the focus is on their own glory, athletes often lose the joy in competing and solely find acceptance in winning.

It is a difficult balance. Truly being a person of character will result in those who only want to win scoffing at the kind, generous and honorable student-athlete as weak. I would wholeheartedly disagree with that summation because it is so much harder to be a person who truly exemplifies character for the good of the whole than it is for someone to want to win so badly that they leave a bitter taste in the mouth of those they competed against.