Loyalty is an overused buzzword of convenience. It’s a word that we use when it fits the narrative that we want.
I’m not saying loyalty isn’t important. I do think it is. But I think we use loyalty as a way to defend bad behavior too often. And I think players do this as well. Anytime they make a bad decision as long as it was trying to help or defend one of their teammates, it’s okay. It’s justifiable. Players will cover up for their teammates even when it’s the wrong thing to do. Even when it gets serious. No one wants to sell out a teammate or throw them under the bus.
A lot of this is understandable. We celebrate the behavior as coaches. We want the guys to always take care of each other. Have each others backs. Count on each other. It’s part of being a great team. You want guys who are loyal to you, loyal to your program, loyal to their teammates. It’s honorable.
Except when we use it conveniently to justify our behavior. If one of my assistant coaches turns down another job to stay on my staff, is that loyalty? Does that mean if he leaves for a better job he’s being disloyal? Again, we can fit it to our narrative. If we decide to stay, we wanted to be loyal. If we leave, it’s just making a decision that’s best for myself and my family. It’s not disloyal.
If some of your players do something stupid, and their teammates know about it, should they tell the truth? Or are they being loyal to their teammates by not saying anything? Isn’t that being disloyal to you and the program? It’s easy for players to say they didn’t want to say anything because they wanted to be loyal to their teammates. But loyalty isn’t blind. And it isn’t stupid. If you are covering up for one of your teammates, or lying for them, that’s not loyalty. That’s stupidity. They are being disloyal to you at that point.
It seems like we can use loyalty as an excuse or a justification for any type of behavior. I’m not saying true loyalty is not important, because it is. But it’s not a word of convenience. We can throw it around to justify whatever behavior we want to. Loyalty has it’s limits for all of us, and that is okay. That is real. Your kids should know this as well. Loyalty can be a badge of honor that justifies bad decisions, and that can have a negative impact on your team or program.