I recently came across the story of Maori Davenport and subsequent editorial by Jay Bilas, in which he takes up a fight to reinstate her eligibility to play her senior season of high school basketball in Troy, Alabama.
Maori is a standout. She’s the type of athlete most young kids aspire to be; a rare combination of ability, athleticism, and grit. As a junior, she’d already earned a college scholarship, was instrumental in leading her high school team to its first-ever state title and won a gold medal for USA Basketball as part of an under-18 team competition in Mexico City. Her potential is only accentuated by the hard work she seems willing and eager to put into earning every accolade she’s acquired. Unfortunately for her, the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) doesn’t see it that way. Due to a clerical error by USA Basketball, she was declared ineligible for violation of their policies.
I don’t know Maori beyond her impressive list of athletic accomplishments. But her story struck me as especially unjust because, having grown up immersed in athletics, there’s no doubt in my mind that she is also a great leader among her peers and teammates. I know it because her talent simply demands it of her.
Athletes like Maori tend to meet and embrace the expectation thrust upon them because, by and large, leaders like leading. They thrive on the feeling of being empowered to succeed, on their terms, with guidance and support from those they trust. They’re comfortable with the accountability that comes along with the benefits that leadership affords. More than that, they embrace it because they understand accountability to be a measure of respect between a leader and those that they lead.
At Rocket Camp, accountability is one of the values we hold most dear. It builds trust among our team and inspires confidence with our clients. Accountability in leadership is vital because it filters to every level and is central to creating a shared sense of ownership within our organization. It also allows us to make mistakes, accept responsibility, and move on. It is foundational to who we are and how we operate.
Steve Saverese is the Executive Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA), the organization that has banned Maori Davenport from playing basketball during her senior year. As a leader of the AHSAA, he is failing his organization. As an educator and administrator, he is failing Maori and the student-athletes in the state of Alabama.
Accountability in leadership is critical. Steve Saverese should admit his mistake, and reinstate Maori Davenport.