Friday, November 20, 2009

Soccer violence

We recently witnessed video footage seen here: of a University New Mexico and Brigham Young University soccer game displaying Elizabeth Lambert, a junior, committing a series of excessively rough plays, including yanking BYU forward Kassidy Shumway to the ground by her ponytail. The video clip made her an Internet sensation and opened her to scornful criticism.

In her first interview after the game, Lambert stated that her action was indefensible, which led to her indefinite suspension from the New Mexico team. She further stated that she has watched the game and does not recognize herself pulling down Brigham Young’s Kassidy Shumway.

“I look at it and I’m like, ‘That is not me,’ ” said Lambert, a defender and an all-conference academic player. “I have so much regret. I can’t believe I did that.”
However, she said other moments of aggressive play — in which Lambert elbowed a Brigham Young player in the back, received a yellow card for tripping, seemed to throw a punch at an opponent’s head, and made a hard tackle from behind — came during the forceful, insistent play that routinely occurs in women’s soccer, but might be misunderstood by casual fans.

“I still deeply regret it and will always regret it and will carry it through the rest of my life not to retaliate,” said Lambert, a 20-year-old junior on scholarship.
At the Center for ETHICS*, we have studied moral reasoning development in athletes for over 25 years. Through longitudinal research, we have seen a decline in athlete moral reasoning. It appears that the longer an athlete is involved in competitive sport, the lower the moral reasoning. Likewise, we have recently studied aggression in women’s collegiate soccer. Like Lambert stated, violations such as tripping, elbowing, and tackling from behind regularly occur during the context of a soccer match. However, what athletes sometimes fail to realize is that this creates a slippery slope which can spiral out of control. As stated earlier, Lambert did not recognize herself enacting the violent behavior that is now being continuously replayed via the Web.

Through a series of interviews with coaches, players, and officials in our aggression in women’s soccer study, it appears violence becomes more prevalent when soccer players perceive their opponents are intentionally aggressing upon them or their teammates (Stephens & Kavanagh, 2003). Also it seemed that intentional acts of violence were partially due to frustration from the opposing team playing overtly aggressive and committing hard fouls. Also, each of the interviewees claimed that they would retaliate against an opponent if they believed they were playing explicitly aggressive. If this is the case, then one can see where a player such as Lambert may lose control or cause an opponent to display similar behavior.
Due to this recent event, the effectiveness of an intervention program on the reasoning process in players, coaches, parents, peers, and referees would be valuable. Stoll (2001) states that perhaps an intervention program which emphasizes prime moral values such as justice, honesty, respect, responsibility, and beneficence would be valuable in enhancing the appropriate behavior and aid the reasoning process in athletes, coaches, parents, peers, and referees. In addition, Lickona (1991) states that for unethical behavior to change, one needs to consistently practice sound ethical behavior for it to become habitual. Future studies should examine the roles coaches, parents, peers, players, and referees can play in emphasizing positive moral values necessary to play within the spirit of the game.

Though Lambert’s recent acts are undeniably indecent, we must remember that aggression in women’s collegiate soccer occurs often and that she just happened to get caught on that slippery slope that carried her competition too far. Perhaps some time away from the game and some reflection may be the best thing that ever happens to her. After all, we should use this as a teaching moment for all of us, not just Elizabeth Lambert.

Justin Barnes, Ph.D.
University of Idaho
Center for ETHICS*

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Old Dude - Prejudice i

This morning I was listening to the DJ on 102.3 say that he was rooting for Brett Favre yesterday. He kept referring to him as the "old dude." As you may not know, Brett and I are the same age and consequently I found this DJ to be totally offensive and very ignorant and here is why.

The notion of "old" I argue is just one of many of our mythical and socially constructed realities. In other words, we abstract our sense of truth and reality based on what is said by various facets of our society, e.g., the media, parents, coaches, friends, etc. Yet, what are these people basing they are claims on?

The problem with socially constructed realities is that they lack empirical evidence that would support a person's claim. So, for example, if I am "old" how is that there is no one in my classes that can keep up with me in a 5 mile run? If 40 is old, why is Brett Favre one of the best QBs in the NFL? If 40 is old, why is Daniel Craig able to be so convincing as James Bond? Does he look old? Or how is it that Tom Watson almost won the British Open at age 58?

Socially constructed realities are very dangerous because they tell us that there are limits to what people can do. Not only with age, but concerning other issues such as gender and race. For example, concerning gender, a socially constructed reality is that women cannot handle management level positions or that they don't know enough about sports to work for a place like ESPN (a very small percentage of women work for ESPN. It is totally dominated by men). Additionally, years ago, a socially constructed reality was that girls/women should not play sports at all. Competing in sports it was believed was too masculine and a violation of a woman’s real place in society which was to stay home and be a wife and mother. Yet, this belief has clearly been debunked. As for race, a socially constructed reality within sport is that whites are more effective coaches than blacks. Consequently, we have very few black coaches in DI football. But where is the empirical evidence to support such a belief? In the case of race, lately there have been more black coaches reaching Super Bowls than whites (Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith, and Mike Tomlin over the past few years).

Socially constructed realities cause people to blindly think that we must be a certain way or only possess certain capabilities depending on our age, gender, race, type of job, socioeconomic background, etc. Personally, I resist subscribing to any of it. I find it much more fruitful to live a life that is more socially unrestrained while believing that the possibilities are endless and that the limits are few. The alternative is to be stuck among the status quo where harmful beliefs and practices are perpetuated and call for change is rarely requested or heard.

Andrew Rudd, Ph.D., Dr. Rudd is a graduate of the University of Idaho, Center for ETHICS*, and is now on faculty at Florida State University, Sport Management Program.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pushing out Bobby Bowden is a Grotesque Reality of Big Time College Athletics

As I walked across the Doak Campell parking lot and glanced over at the Bobby Bowden statue, I thought about all the admiration and gratitude that has been paid to Coach Bowden. For years, Bowden has been regarded by the denizens of Tallahassee as some sort of Greek god. But now, as the Florida State Seminoles are 2-3, Jim Smith, Chair of FSU’s Board of Trustees is proclaiming that this has to be Bowden’s final season. As Smith, put it, “We have been patient long enough.” Smith is essentially arguing that the Noles have been dwelling in mediocrity the last several seasons and it is time to get back on top with a new head coach.

In response, I find Smith’s idea to be absolutely ludicrous, if not grotesque when one thinks about the purported ideals of college athletics. Yes, I know, many will say that big time college athletics is a “business” and in business, decisions have to be made in relationship to what is best for turning a profit. However, if one examines the mission statement of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and more locally the mission statement of Florida State’s athletic department, one will find reference to building character, education, and academic achievement. There is nothing in these mission statements pertaining to college athletics as big business or the need to win national championships. But unfortunately, we see once again in college athletics that mission statements are nothing but a fa├žade to cover up the reality which is winning = fans = money = winning = fans = money. So when the statue was made of “Coach,” the Board of Trustees should have told Bowden that all the admiration and accolades would be there only as long as he could sustain the formula. Forget all that silly nonsense about character development and education. The mission statement obviously needs to be reworded into something that represents the truth. Something to effect of “The purpose of big time college athletics is to make lots of money and win national championships…” It should also be mentioned somewhere in fine print that even if you have the second most number of wins in Division I football history, a statue made of you, a field named after you, and the development of a town because of you, you will still be terminated if you do not feed the insatiable appetites of the fans and boosters.

In closing, I am stultified over the kinds of things that can mean so much to people. On the one hand, the world’s environment is withering away, the ozone layer is gone, there are millions of sick and starving people suffering around the world, our U.S. economy has been in turmoil, thousands die of cancer, and other incurable diseases every day. Yet, on the other hand, Smith and many others are lying awake at night over a 2-3 football season. Which by the way, could easily be a 4-1 record if just few a few plays were across the last few games. At that point, FSU is easily in the top 25 and we are not even having this conversation.

Andy Rudd
(850) 645-6883

Dr. Rudd is with the program area of Sport Administration in the College of Education, Florida State University

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Coach, Let the Players Play

When it comes to youth sports, some stories just need to be retold. This day, the hometown (host) team was scheduled to play an international team in a regional tournament game. Youth baseball was at its best, under the lights; there was great anticipation in the air. The skies had grown increasingly dark as the day progressed and there was a growing sense of urgency to get the game started so the game could be finished that night. Suspending or postponing a game is never the first choice, especially in tournament play! Luckily, the previous game had finished ahead of schedule and this final game of the day was rescheduled to begin early.

It was a very close loser-out game; one of those truly hard fought competitive games. Unfortunately, the visiting manager informed the tournament directors in the top of the seventh that one of the host team players was wearing “an improper” number. Interestingly, tournament officials noted that the visiting team manager brought up the improper number issue only when the player in question was put into the game as pitcher in the seventh inning. At that time, they were unaware that the visiting team manager had previously brought this same issue to the attention of the umpire-in-chief, who had ruled it a non-issue. The player with the "improper" number happened to be one of the host team’s better players; he already had two at-bats prior to this time. However, because the manager brought the improper number issue to the attention of tournament personnel, the officials had to investigate.

The ethical question that overshadowed the investigation was, “Why now?” because it really did not matter about the player’s number at this point in the game. Play had to be suspended while tournament officials investigated the situation and learned of the previous ruling. All were in agreement that it was an essentially moot point because proper procedure had been followed at the initial report. Official rules refer to players, not numbers. The coach had delayed the game unnecessarily, but the officials handled it swiftly and thoroughly.

Even though coaches try everything to gain advantage to assist their team to the win, there are times when they need to accept the outcome and let the game play out. Wanting to win is one of the powerful purposes of play. However, when wanting to win drives a coach to misuse rules to confound the purpose of play, then perhaps it is time to accept defeat. The purpose of the coach is to provide encouragement, help the athlete improve skills, learn the rules of the game, and assist the athletes to develop to their full potential.

Let the players play the game, Coach!

By Susan Steele and Sharon Stoll, Center for ETHICS*, University of Idaho

Thursday, April 16, 2009

When is enough, enough?

In a remake of a Humphrey Bogart movie called Sabrina, Harrison Ford plays the title role of a multi-billionaire who can’t seem to get enough - of everything—houses, property, businesses, and of course money. The heroine of the movie, Sabrina, pointedly states: “ More is not necessarily better, sometimes more is just.. more.”
When I read of the latest extravagant salary of a coach—I was reminded of this line—when is more just more? Or to put it more bluntly—how much is too much, or enough, enough?
John Calipari agreed Tuesday, March 31, to leave Memphis and the dominant basketball program he built and take on the challenge — and riches — of returning Kentucky to college basketball glory.
Calipari will receive an eight-year, $31.65 million deal plus incentives, according to the uni-versity, making him the highest-paid coach in college basketball. .
At the same historical moment, colleges and universities across the US are weathering the worst recession in decades. Faculty are being dismissed, programs dropped, support services reduced, and student fees increased. Education is taking a serious hit and students can expect higher tuition, smaller scholarships, more rejection letters and bigger classes.
In considering these two stories—Calipari’s salary and the state of the recession on education - something is terribly remiss?
It seems to me that “enough is enough”.
We surveyed 20 colleges and found that not one school thought that the purpose of athletics was to improve the commercialization of their product or pay coaches extreme salaries. Rather, the purpose of athletics is always about education, character, and sportsmanship.
For example, the University of Kentucky is dedicated to improving people’s lives through excellence in teaching, research, health care, cultural environment and economic development.
The mission continues to state that the University of Kentucky facilitates learning informed by research, expands knowledge through research, scholarship and creative activity. And serves a global community by disseminating, sharing and applying knowledge.
I suppose one could argue that a $31.65 million deal plus incentives for the coach improves the economic development of the coach and his heirs, but I doubt that is what the University of Kentucky means in its statement.
I wonder when institutions are going to ask this important question: When is enough, enough?
I suggest that either the institutions rewrite their mission statements about athletics and admit that coaches salaries do not match the mission of the institution, or put a cap on coaches salaries so that athletics matches the mission statement.
If the purpose of college athletics is about education, then no coach should receive a higher salary than the very best of the university distinguished faculty, which isn't chicken feed.
A salary of 3.65+ million a year is just more—well more— and screams of a value system that is about what my mother would say, “Putting on the dog and throwing out the cat.” In other words, the institution makes a display of wealth or importance of its basketball program while ignoring the economic threat to the real purpose of the institution: learning, research and service.
I love athletics and everything about the people who coach and dedicate their lives to helping young people gain the wonderful benefits of play and games.
However, I am hard pressed to support the present salary practices for big time athletic coaches. Enough is enough. And it’s about time that we begin the discussion— even the auto makers have to justify outrageous salaries. S. Stoll, Director of the Center for ETHICS*.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Are you dumber than other generations - and is sport part of the culprit

Thomas Benton, in a recent article, argues that your generation is dumber than generations of the past. He makes the argument based on his own experience as well as from the content of several new books - (Of which, I have read a few) - Below find his text from the Chronicle of Higher Education, August 1, 2008. I have deleted text marked by .... at the end, I have a question for you.

The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric From George Washington to George W. Bush (2008), by Elvin T. Lim, examines speeches and public papers — noting shortened sentences, simplified diction, the proliferation of platitudes — to show a pattern of increased pandering to the lowest common intellectual denominator, combined with a mockery of complexity and analysis.....

Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter (2008), by Richard Shenkman, argues that the dumbing down of our political culture is linked to the decline of organized labor and local party politics, which kept members informed on matters of substance.

What's the Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004), by Thomas Frank, Shenkman shows how the political right has been able to don the populist mantle even as it pursues policies that thwart the economic and social interests of the average voter......

Former Vice President Al Gore obviously has a dog in this hunt, and his book The Assault on Reason (2007) argues that the fundamental principles of American freedom — descended from the Enlightenment — are being corrupted by the politics of fear, the abuse of faith, the power of an increasingly centralized media culture, and degradation of political checks and balances favoring an imperial presidency.

Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World (2008), by Naomi S. Baron, shows how the proliferation of electronic communication has impaired students' ability to write formal prose; moreover, it discourages direct communication, leading to isolation, self-absorption, and damaged relationships.

Worst of all, the prevalence of multi-tasking — of always being partly distracted, doing several things at once — has diminished the quality of our thought, reflection, self-expression, and even, surprisingly, our productivity. Baron's solution is to turn off the distractions and focus on the task and people at hand.....

Her conclusions are largely affirmed by Nicholas Carr's cover story in the July/August 2008 issue of The Atlantic: "Is Google Making Us Stoopid?"

Carr, author of The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google (2008), argues that daily use of the Internet may be rewiring our brains for skimming rather than for the sustained concentration that is required for reading books, listening to lectures, and writing long essays. Obviously, such rewiring is going to have the biggest impact on the rising generation appearing in our college classrooms: the "digital natives.".....

The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (2008), by Mark Bauerlein, provides alarming statistical support for the suspicion — widespread among professors (including me) — that young Americans are arriving at college with diminished verbal skills, an impaired work ethic, an inability to concentrate, and a lack of knowledge even as more and more money is spent on education......

Okay, you get the idea. Here's my question - is our love and passion for sport also a part of the problem - not only the digital nature of the generation - but also the passion for sport and the being tuned into hours of viewing of espn, sportcenter, and so forth - in which we do little active thought but much passive thought - we listen, we mimic, ...we hardly argue, question, or think for ourselves. What do you think?