Last week I had the opportunity to accompany my wife to the Golden Spike Awards, a fancy event put on by the Public Relations Society of America. One of the projects she helped work on won an award, and there was a fancy trophy to go along with the expensive food.
While that was definitely the highlight of the evening for me, a relatively close second place went to the final speech made by BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake, who was honored with the Communicator of the Year award.
There were thoughts in my mind about how he might have only been given this award so the starry-eyed BYU alums already planning to be in attendance could hear the new ball coach say some words. But as Sitake spoke, those thoughts (mostly) dissippated.
Sitake is a great speaker — which I suppose may be a requirement for the award’s consideration. He told jokes. He listed experiences. He weaved anecdotes throughout his narrative. He relayed advice given to him by local celebrities. His speech was touching and relatable.
It gave me a lot of hope for some current high school and collegiate athletes I’ve met since I began my sportswriting endeavors about 10 years ago.
A lot of the athletes and coaches I’ve met have been, like Sitake, very stand-up individuals.
But there are a lot who are the opposite. I’ve read stories about athletes being crude and harassing toward members of the press during locker room interviews. I’ve heard other stories about professionals who act like bullies and arrogant jerks. I’ve witnessed and been victim to the monumentally abrasive egos of those who are idolized for their perceived ability to win.
Most of those people are teenagers or in the yet-to-mature early 20s. It can take a little while for those boys to quit being boys and start to become responsible adults.
But some of those prima donnas in the athletics industry have simply not made the decision to be a good person.
Sitake is an example of someone who — and I say this based on one acceptance speech, having never met or worked with the man — has made the decision to be a good person.
In his speech, he went over a few points of always telling the truth because “it’s the easiest to remember,” learning from BYU and Utah State football legend LaVell Edwards to just be himself, and retelling a story about a nameless BYU football player who taught a 9-year-old Sitake how anyone in the world can change someone’s life for the better without even realizing it.
It goes to show how coaches aren’t really coaching people to be good athletes — even though it’s a huge byproduct when trying to build a championship-caliber team. They’re coaching people.
I just wish some more athletes and coaches I’ve come across would act more like Sitake when it comes to the ‘People’ element.
Tavin Stucki is a sports writer from Midvale, Utah, who grew up with a healthy distaste for pompous prep athletes and ferocious fans of all teams. Send any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.