In The Inward Morning, Henry Bugbee describes an experiential philosophy that is not “set up like the solution of a puzzle, worked out with all the pieces lying there before the eye. It will be more like the clarification of what we know in our bones” (p. 35). In many ways, intercollegiate athletic departments and individual coaches follow this model when developing mission statements, ethical guidelines, and programs on sportsmanship. For these individuals, an athletic department philosophy is not an analytic argument but rather a belief system determined through myriad conversations and decisions over many years.
One aspect of this formation process involves a tension between openness and contraction. On occasion, the process of philosophical thought requires an attention to one’s surroundings – in this case to people, programs, and broader athletic issues. At other times the process necessitates moments of contraction – acknowledging that a given athletic philosophy may not necessarily meet the needs of other institutions or teams.
A second aspect of the development process involves experience. A rich understanding of athletics help individuals shape an institutional athletic department philosophy. Again, Bugbee writes that “Experience is our undergoing, our involvement in the world, our lending or withholding of ourselves, keyed to our responsiveness, our sensibility, our alertness or our deadness” (p. 41).