The purpose of this paper is to examine the values-based competitive sport program at the United States Military Academy (West Point), and to determine if the components of character and leadership development were associated with team success. Strategies employed at West Point to develop cultures that produced leaders of character and teams of significance were reviewed. Major points of emphasis in the competitive sport program included (i) teaching values through sport, (ii) identifying and defining core values, (iii) developing warrior athletes of character, (iv) building teams and cultures of significance, (v) reinforcing values through recognition, and (vi) assessing character and leader development of athletes and teams. Characteristics and specific behaviors of great leaders and teams were identified. A rubric for assessing character and leader development in sport and a survey evaluating the competitive sport experience on the desired learning outcomes of the West Point Cadet Leader Development System were presented. Results indicated that competitive sports programs built on values encouraged and developed behaviors that produced success both on and off the field. Subsequent investigations are recommended to identify how character and leadership development can be integrated into the coaching process and applied in civilian secondary schools and institutions of higher learning.
Ralph Pim is a distinguished professor, coach, and sport administrator. He retired as a professor of physical education and director of competitive sport at the United States Military Academy. He is currently a sport adviser and team consultant in the areas of leadership and character development for Aktive Auckland Sport and Recreation, Sport New Zealand, and the University of Minnesota women’s soccer team.