COED 6170 – Ethics and Diversity for Sports Coaches

This course is designed to teach the theoretical foundations of ethical decision making with a special focus on the issues of moral behavior and diversity in an ever-changing and contemporary sports world. The development of a personal philosophy to include ethics and diversity is a cornerstone of the class.

My assignment was a Coaching Philosophy paper.

Coaching Philosophy

Why do we coach sports? Is it for the love of the game? Could it be for the fame, glory and money? Maybe some think that coaching would be an easy career to get into and become a Physical Education teacher. For me, when I first became a coach, it was not because I wanted to be a coach…no; it was because I was an American playing on a Dutch American Football team.

Coaching is for those who want to coach. How is that possible? When I was first stationed overseas in Holland during the early 1990’s, I learned that there was an adult American football league in my host country. I missed playing American football so I was able to find a team that was holding tryouts for its upcoming spring season. I attended tryouts and after making the team, I was offered to be their new defensive coordinator since they already had another American running the offense.

I did not have a clue on what I was doing and spent three years learning along the way to becoming a coach. We ended up having great defenses those years and even went to the Tulip Bowl Championship (their version of the Super Bowl) in my final year before returning back to the United States.

Once I got back to the United States, I became involved with semi-pro/minor league team and started to actually learn more about the X’s and O’s along with play-calling. Unfortunately, my coaching philosophy became an adult-centered orientation.

According to Eitzen (2012), “Coaches are important role models for their athletes” (p. 69). I was not a good role model for my previous teams. The only thing that I focused on was people attending practices and showing up for games. It was important to win so we could get recognition from the city to help support our team with free field usage and other needed equipment to help lower the teams’ cost.

When I became the Head Coach of the Philippine Punishers, I started to evolve as a coach and my way of thinking was altered. I like to believe that I became a role model for some of the Filipino players, even called a couple of them, my adopted sons. As a coach, I was still focused on winning in the International scene against countries like China, Hong Kong, Guam and Saipan but this is when I started to focus more on basic fundamentals and techniques for these players since they were basically brand new to the game of American Football.

After relocating from Manila, Philippines to Knoxville, TN, some opportunities came up and I started to work with children ages 5 – 14. The first few teams that I had, winning was still important, thinking that it would give the kids a boost to their confidence. Thanks to enrolling into Ohio University’s Coaching Education program, I realize how wrong I have been about my approach to coaching.

According to Zakus, Malloy and Ross (2000), “Parents, teachers, employees and psychologists are keenly aware that how we treat people influences how they will treat us. This treatment usually sets the tone for the manner in which others will behave, particularly the way they will reciprocate” (pg. 60).

Since I have started working with children, I find that their parents are more receptive to what is being taught to their child by the way I treat their children. I treat each child like they are one of mine. I always make sure that any negative comments are turned into positive reinforcements and try to find ways to make it fun for the children.

A study assessment performed by Shields, Bredemeier, LaVoi and Power (2005) showed that when children were asked about the statement ““My parents get angry with me when I don’t play or do well”. . . . 9% of respondents who “somewhat agreed” with the statement and 6% who “strongly agreed”” (pg.49). The one thing that I ask of all the parents is that if they want to be involved in the training of their child, they are more than welcome to come and help out but if not, just sit back, relax, cheer and support their child and team.

Once the child hits the field, he is mine until we break the final huddle for the day. If a child makes a mistake, I will be the only adult talking to them. I explain to the parents that these flag football games are for their child to have fun, learn, build teamwork, and to foster new friendships.

About a year ago, I witnessed a father, from an opposing team, who started screaming at his 6-year-old son for catching a pass and running out of bounds. He walked on the field, yelling at the boy and you could see the dejection in the boy’s face and my heart broke for this poor boy. Instead of cheering for his son who caught the ball, he instead embarrassed his son in front of his teammates, their parents, the opposing team players and their parents. The opposing coach should not have allowed this type of behavior. This is one thing that I make very clear to the parents of my players, the only adults that will be talking to the players during the game is the team’s coaching staff.

How do we define what is right and what is wrong? “Ethics, as the word is commonly used, is concerned with issues of right and wrong in human conduct” (Zakus et al., 2000, pg. 54).  I think that ethics are a learned behavior taught to us from our parents, teachers, and mentors.  As I look at the three ethical bases, I find myself a mixture of Deontology and Teleology. Even though I teach my boys to follow the game rules and procedures, if they commit a penalty during the game to prevent a touchdown, I will be happy about that.  I do not teach bad behavior during practice but I also would not scold players during the game for committing certain penalties if it stops the opposite team from scoring.

What is moral courage? According to Dungate (2011, “Moral courage means doing the right thing even though it might be a risk of inconvenience, ridicule, punishment, loss of job or security or social status, etc”. Not long ago during a game, I was able to show moral courage during a game. The referee blew an inadvertant whistle after we threw an interception. My old coaching persona would have had me yelling and screaming at the referee and that I would want the ball back for a replay of down since neither he nor the opposing coach knew the rule for inadvertent whistle. Instead, I calmly told the referee to give the ball to our opponent and spot it accordingly.

By that act, the referee and the opposing coach were surprised with how I handled the situation with quick thinking. Some of the parents were questioning me about what happened and why they got the ball instead of our team. Once I explained the rule to them, they understood and appreciated it.

According to Crone (1999), “With such an emphasis on winning, there should follow a pressure on people to win” (p. 1). I feel that I am lucky to be able to work with kids starting at the age of 5. Every week, I remind the kids that it is important that they learn the basic fundamentals and techniques, stay focused, trust their teammates to have their back and most of all, just to have fun and not be pressured to win. Regardless of the score, all the players are winners.

My coaching staff and I like to emphasize sportsmanship over gamesmanship. According to Josephson (2002) , “Sportsmanship model demands a commitment to the principles of integrity, fair play, respectfulness and grace.” We explain that they should always help someone off the ground, regardless if it is a teammate or an opponent, hand the flag to the opponent when pulled instead of throwning it on the ground, or hand the ball to the official after scoring a touchdown without any type of unnecessary celebratory gestures.

Josephson (2002) also states that “Gamesmanship is also an excellent example of an ends-oriented approach to ethics. Engaging in behaviors such as a) fake fouls, b) illegal head-starts, c) doctoring of equipment, d) physical intimidation, and e) espionage (e. g., stealing signs) are all well-known examples of this type of approach”. We explain why we do not celebrate making touchdowns, tackles for losses, interceptions or chest bumps.

In conclusion, as my coaching philosophy evolves, I am changing from an adult-centered coaching philosophy to an athlete-centered coaching philosophy. I make sure that the parents know that this game is about their child having fun and it is not about winning nor is it about the parents. I teach my players how to play with good sportsmanship and not bad gamesmanship. By displaying moral courage during a game, I showed my players, coaches, parents and the opposing team that regardless of the chaos on the field, you must always do the right thing regardless of the consequences.

References

Crone, J. A. (1999). Toward a theory of sport. Journal of Sport Behavior, 1(1), 1-9.

Dungate, L. (2011). Moral Courage. Retrieved from http://www.lionswhiskers.com/2011/02/what-is-moral-courage.html

Eitzen, D. S. (2012). Fair and foul: Beyond the myths and paradoxes of sport. (5th Ed.).         New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield.

Josephson, M. (2002). Making ethical decisions. Josephson Institute of Ethics: Los Angeles, CA., http://www.josephsoninstitute.org

Shields, D. L, Bredemeier, B. L, LaVoi, N. M., & Power, F. C. (2005). The Sport Behavior of Youth, Parents, and Coaches: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Journal of Research in Character Education, 3(1), pp. 43-59. Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Zakus, D. H., Malloy, D., & Ross, S. (2000). Sports Ethics: Concepts and Cases in Sports and Recreation. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing.