shutterstock_345986648The Olympic Games are upon us and not only is the USA winning in the medals race, but many of our athletes are setting some great communications examples. Naturally, there are so many terrific examples coming out of Rio right now and, while most of them are stellar and memorable in their own ways, some are not Olympic quality. Let’s take a look at one winning and one losing example in today’s post.
In the winner’s circle: I found Kayla Harrison’s post-win interview with NBC particularly noteworthy. Kayla won gold for the US in Judo (78KG division) for the second time in a row and thus making her the most decorated American Judoka of all time and of any gender.
When Liam McHugh of NBC asked her about her experience of being booed by the crowd in Brazil, Kayla embraced the Jock Talk principle of #graciousness. She could have taken the low road and been critical of the Brazilian crowd, but instead she turned it around. She took the high road and turned a negative into a positive. She said she actually enjoyed being booed, because it made her feel like “the bad girl,” which was something she found refreshing and different.
This should be no surprise coming from Kayla as taking the high road, being positive and helping others is her brand. Kayla is someone who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a coach when she was in her teens, but has overcome that to become a history-making world-class champion. Additionally, she is using her star power to found a non-profit to help victims of abuse. Kayla does not back down from tough questions or the hard truth, and she manages to find the positive even in bad situations.
Not every American athlete, however, has followed Kayla’s lead.
In the loser’s circle: After getting knocked out of Olympic soccer tournament medal-less by Sweden, USA’s Hope Solo kept up her streak of controversial comments by calling the Swedish team “a bunch of cowards.” (Whoa! Was that really necessary, Hope?) This kind of negative language immediately makes her into the bad guy and the Swedes into the good guys. No one likes a sore loser, especially at the Olympic Games. Even if she had had a legitimate point, that point would have been lost to the uproar over the negativity of her reaction. (Sportsmanship, Hope!) A lack of #audience-centricity and #graciousness with a little too much #transparency predictably leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths.
When the world comes together in the spirit of peace and athletic competition, there’s no room for anything but #audience-centricity and #graciousness. And really, this provides a good lesson and model for the rest of us – even if we’re not Olympians – which is to embrace #audience-centricity and #graciousness no matter what, at all times. It’s a winning combo!

Beth Levine