Mind Over Sports

Zero Tolerance & Athletes

Posted on: March 21, 2008

We often read in today’s sports pages about young male college athletes who violate their team’s code of acceptable behavior by doing drugs, becoming physically violent with a girl friend, getting into a fist fight outside a bar, and other inappropriate activities. In almost every instance the head coach is quoted in the media as saying: “We have a zero tolerance policy at this institution and do not tolerate this kind of behavior” and the athlete is immediately cut from the team, often expelled from the university and sent on his way. And very often, these are the same coaches who visited the athlete’s parents in their home and told them that if their son decided to play with his team that he would be like a second father to him. Really? Since when does a father not get his son help when the son gets into trouble, rather than just cutting him loose to fend for himself? Many coaches today give lip service to caring about their athletes, but their true commitment shows up in what they do, not what they say. These coaches are more concerned about how a violation of team policies reflects on the university or college and could even affect their own employment with their school. I once worked with an NCAA Division 1 basketball team and one of the players, half-way through the season, was discovered “doing drugs” and stealing from his teammates in order to finance his habit. When caught, the coach sent him packing on a bus at 2 o’clock in the morning. What that coach should have done, if he really cared about this player, was to get the player professional help. And the coach’s behavior sent a clear message to the remaining members of the team. That is, he really didn’t care about their personal issues and problems but was only interested in having them (the players) make him (the coach) look good.

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