Monday, October 27, 2014

Civility 269 Years Later...

At the ripe age of 13 years old, he sat down, quill to paper and began to write and when he was done a few years later in the last 10 pages of marked journal entries throughout his childhood, George Washington, the Father of our Country, had penned “Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.”

(Note: Capital letters and spelling are taken directly from the text of the book)


Many are dated and to be quite honest, while perhaps relevant at the time, we now look back and giggle:


7th. PUT not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Drest.

9th. SPIT not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.

16th. Do not Puff up the Cheeks, Loll not out the tongue rub the Hands, or beard, thrust out the lips, or bite them or keep the Lips to open or too Close.


Silly perhaps, but Washington’s seeming penchant for premonition when it comes to later day civilization is uncanny. With this blog seeped in youth sports, the following fill the pages of a 13 year olds journal but also, a scene in desperate need at times of some structure and civility.


1st. EVERY Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.


This seems like a no brainer but back in the mid 1700’s, but there was a social heriarchy that we would find distasteful and perhaps offensive today. Washington’s offering refers often to “those of Greater Quality” or “They that are in Dignity” and “Men in Business.” But as you read through this document that was published in 1888 by J.M. Toner M.D. you find that some of these rules hold on to relevance nearly 270 years later and some even speak directly to Coaches and Parents in Youth Sports!


8th.  AT PLAY and at Fire it’s Good manners to give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than ordenary.


Even in the Pre Revolutionary War times, people were asked to manage their fervor and have a good word for those that enter the arena.


20th. The Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the discourse you are upon.


Not sure if the “finger” had been used at that point or not but…..


22nd. Shew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.


The cheers of a missed serve or an error can ring in an athlete’s ears from much longer than the game lasts yet the only time we seem to notice that is when it’s OUR athlete.


38th. IN visiting the Sick, do not PRESENTLY play the Physicion if you be not Knowing therein.


In our IMPACT classes that our Coaches have to go through, much is brought up about making diagnosis without any medical training. Just because we have all seen a sprained ankle doesn’t mean we should be allowing kids to “walk it off” or “play through it.” It’s WHY there are Emergency rooms and Orthopedic specialists.


40th. Strive not with your Superiers in argument, but always Submit your Judgement to others with Modesty.


When it comes to our athletes, there is no “your side.” It’s MY side or MY side. We see it in coaches and officials, Parents and Coaches and even athletes and athletes. Taking the word “Superier” out of the equation, know that we all understand you will fight for your athletes, but understand you aren’t always going to be right.


44th. When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.


In a world of win at all costs and “winning is the ONLY thing,”  even back in the 1700’s a pre teen George Washington realized that someone who gives it all should be recognized for that effort.


49. USE no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.

88th. BE not tedious in Discourse, make not many regressions, nor repeat often the Same manner of Discourse.


Parents, coaches and yes, even players could take this to note. Too many times things said out of the heat of the moment are too far gone to take back and cost us respect amongst our peers and teammates.


50th. BE not hasty to believe flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.

65th. SPEAK not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion.

73d. THINK before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your Words too hastily but orderly and Distinctly.

79th. BE not apt to relate News if you know not the truth thereof. IN Discoursing of things you Have heard Name not your Author always A Secret Discover not.



Hard to imagine Washington had any idea  250 years after writing this, a wave of social media that was at once instant and unchecked would dictate our days news and events. Only those that have been targets of these kinds of attacks know their pain but in essence, don’t believe everything you see/read/post and think about what you are about to tweet, post or blog.


66th. BE not forward but friendly and Courteous; the first to Salute hear and answer & be not Pensive when it’s time to converse.


Athletes are asked by their choices in life to be outgoing, be leaders, socially responsible and good communicators. When Parents step in on that role and ask coaches about playing time and issues that most certainly arise anytime young athletes are involved, isn’t that squandering the opportunity for that athlete to grow into this role? Too often Parents will run interference for their athlete and even the best players in our sport head into their college careers unsure of how to approach a Coach and communicate with a team.


82d. UNDERTAKE not what you cannot Perform but be Carefull to keep your Promise.


Commitment is a complaint a lot of coaches talk about with their teams and athletes. Some clubs demand their athletes ONLY do volleyball and no other sports. Some demand complete practice attendance or playing time in tournaments is off the table. It seems that commitment in the world of so many options for our athletes, which we have worked so hard to gain for them the last 50 years, should have a middle ground somewhere.


The last two entries are, 269 years behind us, as revealing rules for athletes, coaches and parents as can be imagined.


109th. LET your Recreations be Manfull not Sinfull.

110th. LABOUR to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire called Conscience.


Washington used these 110 rules as a General, a Father and family member and even as President of the United States, holding his staff and soldiers to the high standards he wrote about years before.


Two hundred and sixty nine years between, Washington’s rules are as important and relevant today as they were in the Colonial times. Coaches, Parents and athletes all can read and heed the rich advice given by our Nation’s first president when it comes to the landscape of Youth Sports. How nice would it be to hear the words “civility” and “decent behavior” mentioned at our next tournament?