Character Carries the Torch For Sportsmanship to Beijing and Beyond

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Whether Teaching Sportsmanship to U.S. Olympians or High School Coaches, Josephson Institute Is Dedicated to Improving Behavior On and Off the Field

Shortly after the 2006 Winter Olympics, ethicist Michael Josephson, president and founder of Josephson Institute, addressed the Olympic Assembly on the qualities that make a true champion. His remarks so impressed the senior leadership of the U.S. Olympic Committee that they resolved to have every future Olympic athlete hear them.

As a result, Josephson was invited to help develop the U.S. Olympic Ambassador Program, a series of sportsmanship training and cultural awareness sessions designed to ensure that America's Olympic delegates in China next month demonstrate sportsmanship on the field and exemplary conduct off of it.

More than 500 U.S. athletes and 300 coaches have attended the sessions, which were conducted in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. It was the first time in the history of the USOC that America's hopefuls were brought together specifically to hone their role as "ethical" ambassadors for their country.

"There are compelling reasons to close the gap between the rhetoric of Olympic ideals and the reality of Olympic competition," Josephson said. "Winning is important, but we also need to understand the significance of pursuing victory with honor, which will increase public support without diminishing the competitive zeal of our elite athletes."

The overriding theme of the program is that an Olympian's success will be measured by two performances: 1) how well he or she competes during the athletic competition, and 2) how well he or she represents one's country and sport.

U.S. Olympic Ambassadors are expected to be true champions by:

  •     Competing to the best of their ability
  •     Being gracious in victory and defeat
  •     Participating cleanly and with good sportsmanship
  •     Defusing controversy rather than feeding it
  •     Displaying superior character

"The purpose of the Ambassador training was not to ask athletes to be something they're not or to limit what they say or do," Josephson stressed. "It was simply to keep expressions of individualism during the Games within the bounds of propriety."

Coinciding with the USOC program, the Institute also introduced a new part of its Pursuing Victory With Honor sportsmanship program designed specifically for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest public school system in California and the second-largest in the country. More than 1,300 varsity and junior varsity coaches in 20 different sports took the training course.

The program provides a framework for coaches to implement sportsmanship and character concepts into their practice and training regimens. It stipulates that athletic success should not be measured by victories or medals but by the extent to which teacher-coaches help student-athletes improve their skills and become better people.

True champions -- at all levels of competition -- exemplify athletic and moral excellence. It is hoped, through programs such as these, that America's Olympic and student-athletes will "make U.S. proud" this year and in future years.

About Josephson Institute
Josephson Institute, a nonpartisan, nonsectarian, nonprofit organization, provides training courses, consulting services, and character-development programs to help create a world where decisions and behavior are guided by ethics. Its initiatives have reached more than 7 million people and 100,000 sports, corporate, civic, military, public-service, and law-enforcement leaders. For more information, visit:

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