Thursday, January 28, 2010

Athletic Coaches: Winning vs. Ethics

Life Coaches, we’ve all heard of them and it seems to be a growing career interest among many. Flexible hours, good money and helping people -- doesn’t seem like a job could be much better than that. But what if you’re in the business of hiring coaches, perhaps even more specifically college athletic coaches? When coaching others, in whatever capacity, certain skills need to be apparent.

  • Communication. Success of your coach and thus athletes/clients is determined by how well the coach is able to communicate expectations and goals.

  • Organization Skills. How often will the coach practice/meet with the athletes, enabling training and enough time for the athletes’ other obligations?

  • Understanding of their Responsibilities. Coaches must be aware of all of their responsibilities. A skewed view of always winning while ignoring other school responsibilities can be disastrous.

During the hiring process, not only should the potential coaches be interviewed, but an in depth pre-employment screening should be done. It’s not enough to merely do background checks, but nowadays behavioral and psychological assessments can be performed to help determine certain personality traits and how they may behave under stress. Athletic coaches can be under a lot of stress especially if they feel they must win at all costs.

A recent example in Georgia Southern’s men’s basketball program demonstrates this. There had been claims of academic fraud and an investigation began in December, 2008. Apparently a former assistant coach had written essays and tests and also performed online chats in particular courses for a couple of the players. The two players were subsequently suspended. Although both the school and the NCAA neither named the assistant coach nor the basketball operations director, an assistant coach was fired, the director of basketball operations left after the season, and the head coach resigned after the season. Wins have also had to be forfeited from the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. In addition the men’s program will lose one basketball scholarship each year for three years (Georgian Southern men hoops placed on probation).

Perhaps the responsibilities weren’t clear or the pressure was too great. Either way, as the ones hiring, we must use all avenues to judge if the fit is right and that we make the responsibilities clear. Here is a list of some of the main responsibilities, specifically for a college athletic coach:

  1. Compliant to the NCAA rules.

  2. Representative for the school. Understanding all appropriate school rules, even cheating.

  3. Responsible for visa requirements for international players.

  4. Maintain eligibility requirements for their athletes via monitoring their academic status.

  5. Organizing team practices and scheduling tournaments.

  6. Recruiting athletes.

  7. Safely transport players during an away game or other similar trips.

Obviously there is great pressure to succeed and this weight is usually on the shoulders of the coaches and their staff. The college wins more games, they attract good athletes and thus win more and the reputation of the college increases. It can be a vicious or successful circle, depending on if we tip the scale using unethical practices. If we do, it’ll come back and bite us. Do your background checks, your behavioral assessments, and spell out the responsibilities clearly, and the ball will be in your court -- pun intended.

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