Sports is an area especially affected by ethics because there is an assumed, but not always upheld, end-goal: fair competition. There is also a great deal of money that goes into a small number of sports, putting enormous pressures on subverting this goal. Fair competition can be squandered by the organizing bodies, social attitudes, players and coaches. Examples include the historical race-segregation in baseball, falsifying age to compete in the Olympics, players taking performance-enhancing drugs, and players taking money to throw a match. A more recent example is showcased by the ongoing investigation of North Carolina NCAA team, whose players allegedly took fake classes to meet the GPA requirements for student athletes. In these ethical situations, what responsibilities fall to the coach, and what obligations does the coach have?
The Australian Sports Commission code from 2006 offers a list of guidelines for coaches of junior athletes. For instance, coaches should not yell at players for a mistake or for not winning, they should give all players fair time to play, make sure all equipment and facilities are safe, and cannot make inappropriate contact with the players. Lastly, the coach is tasked with respecting each person’s dignity and rights. The American Football Coaches Association code from 1992, meant for adult players, does not explicitly ban yelling or relationships. Instead, it does note that a coach must be respectful of others’ views, must only act within their realm of expertise, and must try to avoid causing harm to players or others. Furthermore, it states that relationships may occur but it requires these relationships to not affect the coaches’ objectivity.
The Canadian Curling Association’s Code of Ethics from 2010 also gives a brief list of statements a coach is intended to follow. They are expected to follow the rules of the sport, respect players from both teams as well as officials, and to uphold the spirit of the rules. These statements contain no mention of dealing with conflict of interest.
What are your opinions about sports and ethics? There are many more codes to explore at Ethics Codes Collection to see which codes may contain them.
The Ethics Code Collection is managed by the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions. Look forward to a new and improved website come September!
Written by Alice Amell