One person of INTEGRITY can make a difference – Eli Wiesel
Integrity takes courage and a sense of self that supersedes all external pressures to take the easy way out and to win at all costs. With that understanding, the Blessed Trinity volleyball team initiated “The Integrity Project” instilling in its players that without integrity life is much harder and the price paid too high.
In November of 2014, BT’s volleyball coach, Paul Stevens, along with Wesleyan‘s volleyball coach Ted Russell, made a presentation at a coaches meeting where “The Integrity Project”, or TIP as they call it, was introduced. “As volleyball coaches, we are called to do more than just teach our players about the game,” said Coach Stevens. “We are called to teach them about life. The lessons that our players learn from us in our practices and during our matches are ones they will take with them for the rest of their lives.”
Last month, one volleyball player, BT sophomore Olivia Dukat, found herself face-to-face with an integrity call during a particularly tense, and important, moment of the 2015 Georgia Challenge tournament. Olivia called a tip on herself on match point, resulting in a 15-13 Norcross win rather than a 14-14 tie. Blessed Trinity did not advance in bracket play.
“Instinctively, I immediately reacted and called my own touch on the ball,” remembered Olivia. “After the play was already over, I felt disappointed in myself that I had lost the game for my team, but I knew I had made the right decision.”
While Olivia might have blamed herself for the loss, her teammates and Coach Stevens rallied around her reminding her that her point was no more important than the other 14 points lost.
“I distinctly remember Coach Stevens pulling us into the huddle and saying ‘who can tell me what happened on the third point on the last set?’ None of us could remember,” said senior volleyball captain Remy Smith. “He said ‘exactly, that is not the point that lost us the game. It is not worth any more than the prior 14 points we lost’. He was right. We did not lose that game because of an honor call.”
Coach Stevens said that the rest of the team was very supportive and completely understanding. “Seniors made a point of going to Olivia and telling her that she had done the right thing, and I told her the same thing. I told the team that I wouldn’t want to win that way, meaning that had Olivia not made the honor call and we had gone on to win, I wouldn’t want Olivia to have to live with that,” he said. “To me, there are some costs that are too high, specifically a player’s integrity.”
While The Integrity Project has been in place for almost a year, the team has been making their own “honor calls” for a long time, said Remy. “We have been doing this as long as I have been on the team and years before that as well,” she said. “We have always made integrity calls and I think it is great that other schools are starting to get on board with it. It is always nice to see other people play the right way as well.”
The Integrity Project means that the team calls our own touches and correct line calls where they know the officials made an error in BT’s favor. “Officials are human beings and will make mistakes,” said Coach Stevens. “If we know that we touched the ball and the official just didn’t see it, or we know that a ball was in and the official called it out in our favor (or vice versa), then it is our obligation as a person of integrity to tell the official.” Some of the lessons include being a person of integrity, playing hard all the time, respecting opponents and teammates and themselves, and wanting to win.
While it might be difficult to make a split second decision and a player may not consciously be able to think through the decision process in the heat of play, for Olivia, the benefits of preserving her integrity, her team, and her school, is worth it. “Winning a particular game or a certain point is less important than the overall lessons that we learn when we are part of a team,” she reflected. “Winning isn’t everything, it’s how you get there that matters.”