As a student athlete throughout my high school tenure, I would always hear coaches mutter the phrase, “This is not a democracy, this is a dictatorship!” It would always come after some comment from a player about why we do this or that, maybe a suggestion, and even sometimes, heated moments between the player and the coach. Much unlike a democratic leader, Thomas Hobbes’ sovereign leader was a single ruler who all obeyed. In hindsight though, are athletic teams really run without democracy? Does the coach hold a position much like that of Hobbes’ sovereign? A sovereign leader in sports has been proven to work the best.
Widely regarded as the greatest coach of all time, Vince Lombardi has been known for his hard-nosed, anything-to-win mentality. If any one coach were considered to be an absolute sovereign, many could argue that he be just that. It was Coach Lombardi that once said, “The leader can never close the gap between himself and the group. If he does, he is no longer what he must be. He must walk a tightrope between the consent he must win and the control he must exert” (Vince Lombardi Quotes). This speaks so closely to many of the things that we have learned about being the sovereign. As Professor LaVaque-Manty brought up in lecture, Hobbes’ sovereign is “absolute and indivisible” (LaVaque-Manty). Much like what Vince Lombardi brought to his teams, Lombardi made sure that the gap between him and his players were much the same, making sure to never let the team or his power, be divided. The sovereign’s power is also “nonforfeitable and unimpeachable,” (LaVaque-Manty) which many coaches modeling Lombardi’s ways try to maintain. Coaches are in total control of the team and no one within that team is going to challenge his/her power, much like the sovereign with its people.
Hobbes defines the sovereign at the end of Ch. 17 as
“one person, of whose acts a great multitude, by mutual covenants one with another, have made themselves every one the author, to the end he may use the strength and means of them all, as he shall think expedient, for their peace and common defence” (Hobbes).
Basically, a sovereign authority leads a society, in which all individuals in that society cede their natural rights for the sake of protection. If a good coach were not to act strictly to that description, then he is not a good coach at all. Coaches should act with ‘great multitude’ and use the strength of the individuals on their team to make peace among them and defend the team. Coaches like Lombardi, Bear Bryant, Dean Smith, etc. have never put the individual ahead of the team and because of that, they were able to do what was best for their respective teams: win.
All teams, and especially the successful ones, have had a good leader at the helm. It has rarely ever been the case where a winning coach runs the team in a democratic manner. Athletic teams vary much from that of government and many of the most successful coaches have shown that democracy is no way to run a team. A coach that closely resembles that of Thomas Hobbes’ sovereign has the highest chance of leading a successful group of players.
LaVaque-Manty, Mika. “The Hobbesian Commonwealth.” Political Science 101: Intro to Political Theory. University of Michigan. Aud. B Angell, Ann Arbor. 12 Oct 2009. Lecture.
“Vince Lombardi Quotes.” Brainy Quote. 1009. Brainymedia, Web. 18 Nov 2009. <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/v/vince_lombardi.html>.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. 1651. 123-302. Print.