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Blame – From Napster to Sweatshops to Volleyball

In an individualized world, where ME seems to count most, blame is a topic that is often used, but rarely broached.  Rarely do we take blame on ourselves, but rarely do we admit that we push blame on to others.

Mom enjoys watching The View talk show.  Over the holidays, I listened in as guest, Justin Timerberlake, discussed the days of Napster.   The host asked Justin if he was upset at Napster (when Napster was deregulated) for the millions of dollars lost due to illegal music sharing.  Justin, in his politically correct celebrity jargon, was disappointed at Napster and was relieved when the government stepped in to regulate the music industry.  He went on to mention that Shawn Fanning (Napster founder) should be responsible for repaying the music industry for the money lost due to Napster.

I’m sorry,  Shawn Fanning is just a very, very small piece of this puzzle.  Yes, he created a website, a service that provided easy file sharing.  His service is no different than an old dual cassette boombox (am I dating myself) or a CD burner.  Napster just provided a vehicle to copy music at a higher rate of speed, one in which the music industry was uncomfortable because of lost sales.  BUT, Napster would never have been an issue, if each individual chose the ethical route to not copy songs illegally.  The real blame is on each individual person, not Shawn Fanning and Napster. 

The point being, it’s easier for the host of The View and Justin Timberlake to blame one company and one owner versus recognizing the real blame: each individual that unethically, and now illegally, downloaded music.  Coincidentally, those same individuals that should shoulder the blame are FANS of The View and Justin Timberlake.  Don’t bite the hand that feeds, Justin.

When I worked in the “real world” as owner of an international marketing company, I imported goods from Asia for sale in the United States.  Lots of electronics, housewares, luggage, etc.  Those goods were made in sweatshops; just like the screen you are reading this blog on.  Admittedly, I have been in sweatshops where rows of young girls, ages 11 to 17 (the preferred age and gender because their fingers are small and nimble enough to assemble by hand tiny parts), worked assembly lines and lived at factories for many months a year for monthly wages less than you make in a day.  People asked me how I justified what I did.  I asked them how they justified purchasing a TV, microwave, shirt, luggage, calculator, towels, sheets, shoes, computers, over 75% of the goods you use on a daily basis from products made in China.  It was easy to blame me; it was hard to blame themselves.  If we want to stop the exploitation of using children (the same age as the junior kids we coach in club), stop buying goods from China.  Buy American.

But there are laws, rules, regulations, etc…?!?!  It’s China.  After viewing the spectacle of these sweatshops, I consciously made choices to use factories that did not employ children under 16 years old.  I paid more for the goods, but morally felt better in my decision.  I am also not stupid.  It is China.  The factory of which I was shown manufacturing the goods was likely one of many factories.  Or if there was only one factory from that company, often products are outsourced to other factories.  You think the Nike shoes you are wearing weren’t made by children?  Nike will tell you their factories are regulated, which they likely are, but what about the overflow and surplus?  They are made in sweatshops.  Americans choose to turn their backs because the product is cheap (never mind the long-term negative environmental impact of these factories that will cost us billions – and likely lives).  But its cheap NOW…

After many years in international marketing, I chose to move from children in sweatshops to children sweating on a court.  Admittedly, over the years of working in Asia, it takes a toll on a person, mentally, ethically, morally, and physically.  Hopefully, the children sweating on the volleyball court are doing so at their own free will and are enjoying themselves.

About that blame game?  Yeah, unfortunately, I see it in volleyball too.  It’s easy to blame the owner of a company or the guy buying goods in a sweatshop instead of looking in the mirror.  It’s also easy to blame a coach in volleyball.  Most coaches I have dealt with are pure, quality people.  Volleyball has a loving family that looks after one another.  The sport, in the United States, is still small enough were greed hasn’t corrupted it (although greed is trying) and coaches look after one another, to help the game grow.  Unfortunately, I have watched, too many times, players and parents, point the blame to the coach.  A player may not be performing their best or may not be getting enough playing time or has gotten into trouble.  There are certainly times when a coach is to blame, but too often the coach is the first to blame.  Even administration has a short leash on coaches when a season is not successful.

In most cases, a player needs to look inside themselves before blaming a coach or a teammate.  True hard work and discipline on a consistent basis is often missing in this era of instant gratification.  I recall Penn State’s Head Coach Russ Rose saying at an AVCA educational session, “This is a bad era for players.”  Some players do not pay their dues consistently in the weight room, conditioning, nutrition, or during practice.  Or players point the blame at another player on the court for a failed point.  After a poor performance, the player is riddled with questions why their performance was poor.  They ask questions and eventually push the blame to a coach or teammate.    It’s time for this era to stop “pointing the finger and pull the thumb”.  It’s time for each of us to look inside ourselves and find where in the past we lacked a true discipline, consistent effort along the way.  It could have been one month or six months ago when maximum effort was not given.  That lack of effort (even going through the motions) can and will catch up to you.

Champions work hard everyday.  I often talk about Karch Kiraly working out the day after winning the Manhattan Open (read about Karch Kiraly and his trainer, Mike Rangel, here).  Ironically, the harder we work, the more likely we are to blame ourselves over small failures.  The blame works as an internal motivator.  We start to recognize our own true weaknesses (which we recognize through hard work) and we learn to rely on the strength of our teammates to pick us up.  Instead of blaming teammates, we motivate one another by compensating for each others weaknesses.  With the lack of blame, a team builds pure unity, positive reinforcement grows between teammates, and success is not hampered, but achieved.

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