3.3 Case Study

Oral and Written Assignment

As part of a team panel, you will be responsible for completing Case Study 3.3 “starting at the finish line” Ethical Leadership Case Study and submit your findings in BB. You will be required to filter, apply, and distill the concepts presented in the course. Detail consideration should be giving to the developing or analysis of a person, group or situation to illustrate a thesis, principle or concept followed by a Q/A session to the class. 3-4 Pages of written report (Cover page and reference page not included in the count), double spaced 12-font paper.

Case Study 3.3: Starting at the Finish Line

Al Buehler is one of the most influential coaches in the history of U.S. track and field. Buehler coached and taught at Duke University for sixty years, retiring in 2015 at age eighty-four. Over that time, he trained 12 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champions, 10 All-Americans, and five Olympians. He served on the U.S. Olympic coaching staff in 1968, 1972, 1984, and 1988 and organized a number of national and international meets, including the first to invite African runners to the United States and a competition with the Soviets at the height of the Cold War. Buehler is a member of the U.S. Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame and recipient of the U. S. Sports Academy’s Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award.

Buehler’s character is even more impressive than his accomplishments as a track coach. Known for living out his principles, Buehler invited the team from North Carolina Central University (NCCU), an all-black liberal arts college, to train at Duke in the 1950s. This was several years before the first African American undergraduates enrolled at Duke and segregation laws were still on the books. He and NCCU coach Dr. LeRoy Walker focused on different events with their combined teams. Buehler refused to participate in any meet that would not accept Walker. When Carlos Rogers and Tommie Smith were booed for protesting racial injustice on the winners stand at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Buehler supported the duo, telling them that they had made a genuine statement. He volunteered to drive them to the airport after they had been kicked off the Olympic team. Buehler trained female runner Ellison Goodall Bishop before Duke had a women’s team, and she went on to become an All-American. Later, he gave up his men’s track scholarships to help implement Title IX, the act aimed at bringing equality to women’s sports on college campuses. Every Sunday morning for thirty-five years, Buehler (described by his family as tone deaf) climbed a rickety ladder to play the bells at the church on Duke’s campus.

Buehler describes himself as a teacher who happened to specialize in track and field. With that in mind, he focused on the total student, not just on the individual’s athletic abilities.

Basically I am concerned with the overall development of my athletes and students. How high they jump or how fast they run is not nearly as important as what kind of person they turn out to be. I want them to be good husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, sons, daughters, and first-rate citizens.

Buehler used the race metaphor to help prepare his students for life. He asked them to remind themselves why they were doing what they are doing, to remember that they could survive challenges because they have done so before, and to stick to their race plan regardless of what happened. However, Buehler believes that finish lines aren’t just endings but also beginnings:

In my view of life, the finish line is a starting point . . . for dreams, for opening long-closed doors, for challenges, for change. Starting at the finish line also means carrying your principles and values forward beyond the finish line of any race or goal and into how you live your life.

Buehler made a lasting impression on colleagues, athletes, and students. Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski calls him “the best example of a teacher-coach in intercollegiate sports.” Carl Lewis, Dave Wottle, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and other Olympic champions describe him as a mentor. When Buehler had a brain tumor removed, he received a constant stream of calls and notes from his former students. Seven-time National Basketball Association (NBA) all-star Grant Hill, who received encouragement from Buehler as a freshman, served as executive producer for a documentary on Buehler’s life; and another former student, Amy Unell, served as director. After the documentary aired for the first time, Buehler and Dr. LeRoy Walker received a standing ovation from hundreds of friends, students, and alumni.

Though retired, Buehler’s words of wisdom (which he shared with his teams every day) live on:

0 If you don’t follow your principles, then that’s being a phony.

0 Take good care of those you love.

0 By being true to yourself, you can generate a genuine enthusiasm that will motivate you and inspire those around you.

0 Turn your attention on those positive things that enable you to be the best you can be.

0 Take responsibility. Only you can determine the course of your life.

0 Take action, even when all the odds seem to be against you.

Discussion Probes

1. What virtues does Al Buehler demonstrate? What virtues does he hope to develop in others?

2. What does it mean to you to “start at the finish line?”

3. How does starting at the finish line compare to Covey’s second habit: Begin with the end in mind?

4. How does Buehler serve as a moral exemplar?

5. What can we learn from Buehler’s example and advice?

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