I went to a bite-fight the other day and a soccer game broke out.

In case you haven’t been paying much attention, a soccer tournament bigger than our World Series or Super Bowl, according to some, is currently being played out. Some call it football. Its not! Well maybe it is, but not at all like our football, the real football, where we use our hands more than our feet.

A few weeks ago, Luis Suarez, playing for Uruguay, bit a player from the opposing team. Yes – with his teeth! Granted the other guy didn’t lose an ear or anything. But this is soccer, not boxing.

The story gets more bizarre. This was his third biting offense. He has now been suspended by FIFA (not sure what that stands for) for four months but has kept his spot on the team, his paycheck, and even his coach’s loyalty. His boss is extremely incensed by FIFA’s sensitivity according to this story.

I learned all I know about the rules of biting from my oldest daughter.  She faced a permanent booting about fifteen years ago for her habit. Seems her day care didn’t care how well she could kick a ball. That kind of behavior could not be tolerated. It potentially hurt the reputation of the organization, it introduced unnecessary risk, and it left painful marks on the other players’ little soft arms. Turns out, many day care rules, like no-biting and no-hands, are also good for business (and for soccer).

I’m wondering, how should we manage an excellent performer who happens to also be a biter? Thinking about someone who is good for the bottom line or good for “compliance,” but leaves a wake of regret, mistrust, and virtual teeth marks behind them. Do we ignore them? Make excuses for them? Try to change them? Remind them of general rules of social behavior and public health? Or do we give them the old three-strikes rule when it comes to violating our team or organizational values, regardless of their technical competence?

What would one of your star players have to do to be dropped after one strike, or two, or ten? The violation of established core values (you have some, right?) does more than cause your team to be in the news every once in a while. It can erode hard earned positive cultural elements inside your company. It can cause other star players to question you – the leader, and your motives. It can erode trust in critical relationships both inside and outside of your company. It can cause the credibility of a whole profession to lose ground. It’s a big deal.

How have you dealt with over-achieving bad apples?


Behind the scenes – my six year old and I coined the term, “bite-fight.”  It’s a little game we like to play at bed time (really calms her down after a busy day). Even though the game stops well before drawn blood, the older ones and the wife really don’t much care for it.

One thought on “Bite-Fight!

  • I had a similar experience when coaching an Upward Basketball team. While he was not a biter, he was an over achieving ball hog! After several warnings, I pulled him out of the game and straight to the bathroom, where I jerked him around by his arm and told him he was benched for the rest of the game and if I did not see a change in his attitude, then he would be off the team. He got the point, not sure where he learned this attitude from, but his dad had the same over achieving tendencies. Oh’ did I mention this was my youngest son Josh? After a long talk or two after the game and seizing the teaching moment, trying to get him to take owner ship as the play maker, bringing the others along because they needed his help, his attitude was better, still an over achiever but now the greatest encourager you would want to be around. I guess there is 2 sides to every story, I should ask him sometime what he remembers about that situation?

    As to the ADULT star player-kick him off the team, 3 strikes and you are out, it is about the fame, glory and the $$$$$$$$$$$$$.

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