Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Score One for Fair Play in Michigan City (sort of)

I’ve devote two blog posts (Ocotber 29 and November 10) to events in Michigan City, Indiana about two youth baseball coaches who were suspended, unsuspended and then resuspended for encouraging/allowing/participating in (depending on different reports) anti-gay name-calling directed at one of the 12 year old players on their team.

According to this news article, the City Park Board has, as a reaction to these events, enacted an amendment to their code of ethics requiring coaches to “take action” in response to “inappropriate, foul or abusive” language from parents, fans or players. Coaches who fail to act will be suspended and perhaps banned from future participation in city park programs. A step in the right direction.

The amendments, as reported in the news article, do not include any prohibition against coaches using unacceptable language themselves, procedure for reporting it or sanctions against the coaches if they were. This is an unfortunate oversight. It is equally important to hold coaches to the same standards as their players, parents and fans. I guess you can infer that, since the coaches are responsible for stopping the use of abusive or inappropriate language by others, the expectation is that they will hold themselves to the same standard. I just don’t understand how you can amend an ethics code and not mention coaches’ behavior too.

Creating a policy is a great step forward. I applaud the city park board for their action. I hope that Michigan City will also follow this up to provide all participants with more specific examples of what constitutes “inappropriate or abusive” language. In addition, I think it would be a great idea to sponsor a workshop for parents, fans, players and coaches about how to intervene in effective ways when unacceptable language is used. That would help to make it everyone’s responsibility for maintaining a positive “good sport” climate at games and practices rather than putting it all on the coaches, especially if coaches are the ones who are using unacceptable language themselves.

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