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Imagine a gathering of a couple hundred badass women, most of whom grew up playing sports; all talking about how to use our collective vision, passion, and voice to make substantial positive change through the empowering masterclass called sport. I recently had this experience while I was attending the ESPNW Summit. Not only was it held at Pelican Hill, one of the most beautiful resorts in the country, but the collective energy of the women (and a few men) in attendance was electrifying. I was blown away, first by the content of the discussions and secondly by the ubiquitous agency of women lifting up other women. 

There were many highlights of the three day summit, but I think the consensus of the brightest highlight was the interview that Cari Champion did with Robin Roberts. POWERFUL! Throughout the interview with the two acclaimed broadcasters, I kept thinking “So this is what brave, bold, kind and humble looks like.”

It was during the Question and Answer segment that it all came together for me. Someone asked Robin how she keeps her cool while interviewing people who have extremely different social viewpoints than she does. Her answer was simple “manners.” She explained, she and her two sisters are all super successful and have definitely had their fair share of adversarial situations. Navigating those circumstances has never been difficult for her or her sisters because their mama instilled a deep understanding of the importance of manners.

Manners, at worst, can diffuse a tense situation; and at best can be the secret sauce that resolves conflict. Like most transformational things in life, this was such a simple yet powerfully impactful response.

Manners aren’t about having to be in agreement with the other person. Manners aren’t about letting someone get away with treating you disrespectfully. Manners aren’t about turning the other cheek to avoid confrontation. Manners aren’t about being meek and weak. Manners are about treating other human beings with civility and respect even when you vehemently oppose their position or actions. 

When I look back on my 37 year coaching career, the times that I cringe in regret are the times I lost my cool and my manners. Far more than any coaching decision that went awry, the times I was disrespectful to a student-athlete or our staff still make me cringe. What makes me really cringe is the realization that there must be hundreds of times I was disrespectful to someone and didn’t even realize or recall it.

I’ve talked a lot about the power of the pause; of taking the time to choose my response versus reacting to situations; and the importance of giving someone the benefit of the doubt by recognizing that their intention may be totally different than their action. Implementing these civil tactics through grace is synonymous with having manners. Grace… not in the sense of fluid movements, but in the sense of kindness and respect. 

Imagine our current world if we would all have the inner discipline and strength to interact with the decorum synonymous with having manners. Imagine the progress we could make with serious social and human issues if we approached each exchange with manners. Imagine if every person grew up with a mama like Robin Roberts has. My own mother had impeccable manners ~ thinking back while I’m writing this, every time I was in a frustrating situation with someone and took the time to pause to remember how kind and compassionate my mother was, I chose to treat them with kindness and respect. Thanks mom. 

Here’s to all of us upping our game with our manners playbook. 

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