The Whyte Stuff: Remember when a simple handshake was your word?
I’ve been watching this show called “American Pickers” where two guys travel around the country and buy unique antiques and treasures from people that have collected for years.
After every verbal agreement, they shake hands, and the sale is final.
Growing up in rural Canada, I can recall many times when I was with my father while he was making a deal with someone buying a truck, selling a trailer or trading for firewood. Not once did an agreement go sour. Why? Because a handshake and one’s word was a solemn bond.
What happened to those days when we honored our commitments?
I have had many situations where someone has given me their word and shook hands, only to find out later they played me to find a better offer elsewhere. I am all for negotiation, and believe there is room for give and take. I am a straight shooter. I tell you exactly how it is and what you are getting. When someone shakes my hand and agrees to terms, I naturally take their word and believe the agreement is real.
I recently had an individual actively solicit me to coach one of the teams in my hockey program. At the end of the season and after lengthy discussions, I finally awarded him the head coach position of a DYHA Jr. Sun Devils team. We shook hands on his opportunity and spent the next few weeks on budget, stipend, tournaments, etc. Right before the pre-tryout camp and announcing all of my coaches for the upcoming season, this individual told me he was offered a position at another program. It was obvious that he was trying to renegotiate the original deal and hoped to pressure me at the last minute. This was a simple decision for me – when someone gives their word and then threatens to quit, this is not someone I want to be associated with.
This goes the same for players. We are now in tryout season and anxiety is high. Players and parents are jockeying around to see where their child will play next year. When someone agrees to play for a certain team and then changes their mind after making a verbal commitment, it is unethical. This jockeying not only impacts the credibility of the child and family, but it can negatively impact the future of other players who may have made the team. Other than making a team at a higher level, such as AAA instead of AA, going to another team after verbally agreeing you are “in” is not morally acceptable.
If you lived in a small town and didn’t honor your word, you wouldn’t be in business long. Your reputation was quickly shared and people made decisions accordingly. Youth hockey is a business and every program in the Valley is looking to gain their share of the market. That is capitalism at its finest. There is, however, a professional and ethical way of handling these situations. You are allowed to weigh all your options, change teams, and move to another association. That is commendable and expected when looking out for the best interest of your child. What is not good practice is making agreements, confirming commitment, and then going elsewhere. Although Phoenix is a massive city, youth hockey is still a small community in Arizona, and one’s welcome will be worn out quickly if you don’t act with integrity.
The most important message here is to show what kind of example are we teaching our youth when we unscrupulously seek the highest bidder and break bonds with those who extend their hand in good faith.
Good luck to all during these crazy tryout times, and may you accomplish your goal and make the team you dream for. During this time, however, please be open and honest, respecting everything this game has to offer.
Sean Whyte is the director of hockey operations and coach-in-chief at DYHA.