Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sam's Blog - Moral Development and Fair Play - May 22

Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You

Not long ago a coach asked what does US Youth Soccer teach regarding sportsmanship.

Well we do have a publication titled The Principles of Conduct and we certainly do promote good sportsmanship in our events. In the National Youth License coaching course we conduct a session on Ethics and Morals for coaches. So in reply to the coach I passed along a document titled Stages of Moral Development.

After reading the document the coach made the comment and asked the question here, “Thank you for the insightful information on moral development. I had read it before, when I first took the National Youth License back in 1998. However it was good to read it again. I have one question, given that individuals cannot conceptualize morality any higher than one stage above their present stage and also given that only a small percentage of individuals ever reach level 6 ‘golden rule’, then how are we suppose to teach ‘Fair Play’ which is the golden rule?”

Indeed most players follow the ‘Golden Rule’ merely for reciprocation; that is they are hoping that if they treat others well then they may get the same treatment. This is especially true for children. It is not that they follow the rule because of a greater sense of the concept of morality, but instead an “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine”. So while they follow the Rule for the wrong reason they do in fact follow the Rule. In time, they may grow to level 5 or 6 and come to a more holistic understanding of the Golden Rule.

It has become difficult to teach young players fair play when they see professional players often cheat. Nor is the cheating confined to players on the field during a match as coaches, team managers, and club administrators and occasionally the referees also bend the rules or out right cheat. Too many participants and spectators of American sports now accept gamesmanship and breaking the rules in order to win.

If this were not the case then groups like the Positive Coaching Alliance would not be necessary. Some universities now have Sports Ethics classes to teach tomorrow’s physical education teachers and coaches to play by the rules and demonstrate good behavior. Unfortunately only 20 percent of the coaches in youth sports in America have ever received any formal training to coach youngsters.

For us as youth soccer coaches being a good sport starts with how we conduct ourselves in front of the players. Do our actions reflect our words?


Anonymous said...

Well, yes and now....

In the heat of the battle, were wining is everything, you will see cheating one way or the other so we must be aware of it. (i.e Maradona famous hand ball against england)

We must teach good sport but also my must teach "reality sport" which is how to circumvent the rules. So that if fair play is not reciprocated then we would know how to act accordingly

My 1/2 cent

Brian said...

Well said. Ethics aren't situational. Either you believe in them or you don't.

It's sad not only to see high level players cheat constantly (not just diving, but its evil twin shirt pulling) but to hear commentators and 'experts' praising such cheating as 'savvy' and criticizing those who don't cheat as 'naive.'

SoccerCoach said...

Youth players will learn, on their own, how to circumvent the intent of the Laws as they relate to fair play. However, deliberately teaching players to 'play dirty' or hurt an opponent destroys what the 'beautiful game' is meant to teach - namely players controlling the tone of their game through on-field sportsmanship and fair play.