If you are caught up with March Madness fever like me (especially since Georgia Tech is playing and just advanced past the first round!), you probably check scores on-line multiple times a day to see how well your bracket predictions are shaping up. Occasionally you might find a story about what is going on behind the scenes during the tournament that points to the larger meaning of sports and competition. I found such a story in what might first appear to be just a curious little anecdote.
Georgia Tech’s players agreed to give up their cell phones throughout the duration of the tournament. They did this during the ACC tournament, and experienced unexpected success, winning three games and reaching the finals. The benefits they cite are more than just the obvious increase in focus: it is how removing the distraction of cell phones has affected the team relationships off the court that the players cite as the main benefit.
Senior D’Andre Bell believes the decision has helped the players grow closer together: “I wasn’t surprised at all [at the positive impact] because anytime we were at the dinner table all you could hear was texting, buttons being pushed, looking down at the phone. Now it’s fun arguments or insightful discussions about who we think is better in sports or where we came from or why we think a certain way. We really got a chance to learn about each other. I felt as if we were a family for the first time. ”
Coach Hewitt observes on the trip to the ACC tournament: “That was the most chatter I had heard at the back of the bus all year. It was like the old days when I was playing. We played cards, we talked, we slept. That was it.” Without the incessant distraction of a mobile phone, the players had to pay attention to each other. The result was a stronger community that may have translated into greater success on the court. Bell cites these on-court benefits: “Trust. More selfless moments out there on the floor.”
The virtue of our character is both revealed in how we relate to others in community and refined in the context of community. Trustworthiness (and trusting others) is a virtue that teams, and society as a whole, require to flourish. We do not develop trust with others unless we know them and are willing to be known. The endless distractions media and communications technology stream in front of us surely limit opportunities we have to build trust and therefore can weaken communities from the scale of a family to a city. May we value more the real, living souls around us than the virtual devices at our fingertips.