OBJECTIVES • To define morals & ethics • To examine some ethical issues & to consider that they are often complex & context specific • To investigate areas where problems with ethics commonly exist • To investigate how coach behaviours influence athlete attitudes towards ethics • To examine some potential solutions to dealing with ethical dilemmas
Morals & Ethics Moral – to be concerned with the goodness or badness of human behaviour or with the distinction between right or wrong. Moralist – A person who follows a system of ethics. Ethics –relate to moral principles. • A principle or rule of right conduct. Concise Oxford Dictionary (1991)
Ethics Key Concept: Ethics are a more or less coherent set of principles formulated around behaviour in a particular activity. Lyle (2002)
Scenario 1 A gymnastics coach makes sexual advances & suggestions to his 15 year old athlete. Ethical or unethical behaviour?
Scenario 2 An athletics coach notices his sprint athlete seems to be struggling under the training load that he has been set. On further investigation it transpires the athlete has shin splints, acting under medical advice the coach alters the training regime to take his injury into account. Ethical or unethical behaviour?
Scenario 3 A 26 year old male athletics coach had been coaching a 22 year old female 800 runner for 2 years. During this time athlete & coach had developed romantic feelings for each other. 2 years later the coach & athlete got married. The athlete continues to compete at international level. Ethical or unethical behaviour?
Conclusions from Case Studies Whilst some ethical concern cases may be judged on a “black & white basis” many others are highly complex & shrouded by contextual issues that need to be considered on a case by case basis where material facts are open to interpretation. Hence a “shades of grey” approach is often most appropriate!
Where & Why are Ethical Concerns Likely to Arise? • Coach – Athlete power relationship • Youth sport – “level playing field” concept • Competition –reward conflict • End justifies means approach • Recreational sport coach misconceptions • Professional sport & sub-culture behaviour • Hero-worship & infatuation
High potential for problems because of differences in: Age & maturity Knowledge & experience Intensity & duration of engagement Gender Close physical contact Psychological dependency Emotional intensity Ethics & the Coach -Athlete Power Relationship
Particular Ethical Problem Areas • Power differentials are abused • Attempts to influence results or performance • Inappropriate assumptions applied
Coach Behaviour & Ethics This has an important influence on athletes & can fall into 4 categories: • Coach demeanour & behaviour when in the coaching role • Determining or condoning performer behaviour • Interpersonal behaviour with performers • The coach's professional role
Potential Solutions to Ethical Challenges • Codes of conduct • Movement towards virtues-based conduct by coaches • Coach education influences • Encouraging coaches to reflect on ethical issues
Advantages: Set guidelines & boundaries of acceptable for unacceptable practice & behaviour Gives professional credibility to coaching as minimum standards are stated Limitations: Issues led – often negatively termed Often state the obvious! Rules dominated Do not emphasise or provide examples of good practice Codes of Conduct
Virtues - Based Conduct • Approach that relies on a sincere belief by coaches living by “good” values “ What will I do here in the light of what I consider myself to be?” (McNamee, 1998) The development of a deeper moral code to live by based on personal virtue.
Virtues - Based Conduct Approach allows flexibility as defining moral actions in the sporting context is elusive. This approach allows certain principles to be unassailable, e.g. Respect, integrity, equity, fairness. Whilst other areas are less rigid, usually the weaker held ones.
Virtues - Based Conduct Belief Tree • Roots –core values • Branches – intermediate beliefs • Leaves – peripheral beliefs This approach ensures contextual decision making takes placed as opposed to rigid rule-adherence.
Coach Education Issues Minimal attention given to ethical considerations in coach education programmes. Illustrated by: “Spending a lot of time on ethics does not really apply to me. You see I am a coach, my role is to teach physical skills to help athletes improve. I will help many people this way, & that is a good thing isn't it? Besides, I think I am a pretty good person. I get on well with people & some of my friends are from different ethnic backgrounds”
Coach Education Issues • It is not sufficient to simply list ethical issues & make assumptions that aspiring coaches can deal with them effectively • A better approach is to encourage coaches to critically engage with such issues at a personal level, so that we can deal with them as they appear in practice
Self – Reflection & Ethics Coaches are challenged by Johnson (1996) to see what potential they have to act unethically by answering the following: • Admitting we may have prejudices • Making honest attempts to identify what they are • Identify actions that reflect these prejudices • Seek support from others who can help us overcome them
Self – Reflection & Ethics This process allows us to realise the limitations of our thinking & that our view of “truth” may be one of many! Examples of questions to ask yourself: • Do the athletes I work with fear me? Why? • How much power do I have over the athletes I work with? • Do I include athletes in the decision making process? If so, how? If not, should I?
Concluding Thoughts….. The fight against unethical behaviour is unlikely to be ever considered over…. But if coaches continue to aspire to a virtues based attitude towards their coaching, to show critical vigilance & a questioning attitude, this should lead to better ethical coaching practice.