“When No One Is Watching”: Two Stories of High School Athletes’ Integrity
By Doug Abrams
With national and international crises and discord dominating the news these days, it takes something special for a youth sports story to reach a major metropolitan newspaper’s editorial page. On June 2, the Minneapolis Star Tribune saluted 16-year-old high school junior Kaylee Gossen, a varsity golfer whose story provides a welcome respite from news accounts of the troubles that sometimes mar the games that children and adolescents play.
Kaylee reminded us that integrity counts in youth sports, and that people respect spirited competitors who take the high road. Without diminishing her will to win, the Marshall, Minnesota golfer delivered the timely reminder when the personal stakes counted the most.
“I Needed To Do the Right Thing”
In late May, Kaylee Gossen was disqualified from sectional competition, the last step on the road to the Minnesota state high school golf championship tournament. She signed a scorecard that reported her round at 82, but she quickly realized that something was wrong. After conferring with her parents and coach, she realized that she had taken seven strokes on the 16th hole, not the six that her scorecard recorded.
If Kaylee had kept quiet, no one would have known. An 82 or an 83 would each have earned her another trip to the states, but she self-reported the error. Tournament rules mandated her disqualification for signing an inaccurate scorecard.
“I realized I needed to do the right thing, losing my shot at going to state,” she told the Star Tribune. “I knew I was going to be disqualified, but it was the right thing to do. . . . Integrity goes a lot [further] than state.”
“I Did Not Deserve the State Record”
In MomTeam.com a few years ago, I wrote a similar story about sophomore Bram Miller’s act of integrity at the Alabama state high school track and field championships. When Bram received his gold medal for winning the Class 1A state high jump title, the public address announcers told the crowd in Selma Memorial Stadium that he had set a new state record by clearing 6 feet, 8 inches.
But Bram knew that meet officials and the public address announcer had made a mistake. He and two other competitors had each cleared the bar at 6 feet, 6 inches, and he won the title on fewest misses. All three missed at 6-8, though he came close. He also missed at 6-6 1/2, which would have erased the existing record of 6-6 1/4.
“The Right Thing to Do”
The Alabama High School Athletic Association said later that if Bram Miller had remained silent, his “record” would have stood and no one would have known the difference. But Bram rejected silence because he knew the difference. He told MaxPreps that when an official at the victors’ podium congratulated him for clearing 6-8 and breaking the record, he responded, “No sir. I got 6-6.” Then he told his coach about the officials’ mistake and requested correction, which the state Association made the next morning.
Bram’s explanation? “I did not deserve the state record because I didn’t set it. I had to tell someone. It was the right thing to do.”
“When No One Is Watching”
The Alabama High School Athletic Association’s director of communications said it best. When athletes in Bram Miller’s position choose the high road, he told MaxPreps, “we act surprised but we shouldn’t be. Kids have much more integrity than we give them credit for.” The sentiment also fits Kaylee Gossen.
The Kaylee Gossen and Bram Miller stories share at least two common denominators for parents, coaches, and players. First, both young athletes wanted to win, but their honesty underscored the guideline delivered years ago by the British Association of Coaches: “Sport without fair play is not sport, and honours won without fair play can have no real value.”
Second, by rejecting unfair advantage that would have gone unnoticed, both young athletes reaffirmed the often-stated essence of “integrity,” in athletic competition and elsewhere: “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”
Sources: A Minnesota High School Golfer Wins Our Admiration, Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 2, 2017 (editorial); Paul Klauda, Marshall Golfer Was Headed Back to State, Then ‘Did the Right Thing,’ Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 2, 2017; Doug Abrams, Youth Sports Hero of the Month: Bram Miller (Falkville, Ala.), http://www.momsteam.com/blog/douglas-abrams-jd/youth-sports-hero-month-bram-miller-falkville-ala (June 2, 2014); Dave Krider, High Jumper Bram Miller Shows Honesty After Being Mistakenly Credited With State Record, http://www.maxpreps.com/news/uePVhOorNEK_L2eI-kCulQ/high-jumper-bram-mil… (May 8, 2014); AHSAA, Falkville High Jumper Points Out Scoring Mistake, http://al.milesplit.com/articles/127870-falkville-high-jumper-points-out-scoring-mistake