Exhibiting Responsibility

The other day, I sent the above photo to Rebecca’s Private Idaho (RPI) Race Leadership Team. RPI is an Idaho-based gravel cycling event consisting of three major races. The photo captured a snapshot of trash I encountered on a popular trail the day after RPI’s first day of competition. As I stuffed used gels and discarded wrappers into my jersey pocket, I realized race participants had adopted a mindset that littering was acceptable (despite being asked to keep the trails pristine at the pre-race briefings). I sent off a quick email with three suggestions in hopes it might curtail racers from depositing trash on the course during the events.

What followed was a master class in responsibility. Rebecca (of local and national cycling fame) responded quickly, despite being in total demand as leader of the weekend, acknowledged there had been a volunteer breakdown. The trail was not swept (ridden afterward) with a crew specifically assigned to collecting trash. Further, she was sending out a team that day to take another pass and collect remaining items. Most importantly, she was committed to making an emphatic announcement about rider expectations at the next rider briefing before the largest part of the event. Lastly, I received an email with a photo showing a few additional pieces of trash collected by the follow-up team who had checked the trail by that evening.

I share this story because at no time did anyone try to dismiss the issue as unimportant. There was no way to confirm all the trail litter was from the race. The RPI event used the trail system and took responsibility for returning it for public use in good shape.

How might we take responsibility like RPI, even when the actions that cause friction are outside our control? If our name is on the banner, how do we live our organizational values to provide uninterrupted accountability? When we seek to create trust and authenticity, we say what we believe and then act in a manner that reinforces our beliefs. There are no shortcuts to integrity (or hosting a large cycling event).

Authentic Games

John Oliver takes on the NCAA during the most recent installment of his show, Last Week Tonight. The episode is remarkable because it shines a light on the dark corners of the collegiate athletic system.  He makes visible the disparity between the stated belief of the NCAA and its actions.  The NCAA states it purposes as, a membership-driven organization dedicated to safeguarding the well-being of student-athletes and equipping them with the skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and throughout life.  When the dislocation between vision and activity becomes significant it allows for the type of satire where John Oliver excels.  The fake gaming video advertisement needs no explanation.  

Who is going to start the NACC (National Athletic Co-op Conference) where athletes and universities share in the revenue?  Or, when do collegiate athletics move to an enterprise outside of the university structure?  What if the professional leagues (NFL. NBA, NHL) took over the collegiate sports and created development leagues?  Many options and they each result in a structure that is more aligned with the NCAAA’s stated purpose.