Coaches who DON’T read the Washington Post should see this. How accountable should coaches be for the actions and behavior of their athletes?


1 Response to “Coaches who DON’T read the Washington Post should see this. How accountable should coaches be for the actions and behavior of their athletes?”

  1. November 12, 2009 at 11:47 AM

    Please read this excerpt from The Washington Post and let me know what you think.

    The rare, wholesale firing of seven Crossland High School football coaches after players were involved in a scuffle has raised a debate in Prince George’s County about the behavior of student athletes and the accountability of coaches in controlling athletes’ behavior on and off the field.

    Seven assistant football coaches at the Temple Hills school were fired Oct. 28 after Crossland players fought with Potomac High School players on the field during an Oct. 24 game. After the game, sheriff’s deputies pepper-sprayed Crossland football players who were allegedly attempting to get near Potomac’s buses in the parking lot.

    Crossland Principal Charles Thomas dismissed the assistant coaches, and head coach Eric Knight announced his resignation on Oct. 28. In a county in which the competitive football landscape has produced some of the area’s top high school programs and numerous college and professional players, the Crossland season was ended with two games left to play. The final two games for the Crossland junior varsity team also were canceled. No Potomac coaches were disciplined. Knight, who has coached in the county for 25 years, remains Crossland’s athletic director.

    Thomas declined to comment on the dismissal of the coaches or the cancellation of the last two games. Monica Goldson, head of the Prince George’s administrative office that oversees the high schools, said she was consulted by Thomas and agreed with the decision.

    Goldson said the decision on how to discipline coaches and teams after unsportsmanlike incidents by players is handled on a case-by-case basis. She said the Crossland dismissals were made as the result of a “culmination of activities,” but she declined to elaborate.

    County schools Athletic Director Earl Hawkins declined to say whether the school system has a policy that penalizes coaches for inappropriate behavior by athletes. He said players and coaches who are ejected from one game are suspended from the next. He added that the school system will continue to handle cases of unsportsmanlike behavior that occur before and after games on an individual basis.

    Coaches said they are concerned that the dismissal of the Crossland coaching staff could set a precedent.

    “If you’re allowed to do something one time, it’s easier to do the next time,” said Marvin Jackson, 46, of Capitol Heights, one of the Crossland assistants who was fired.

    Dan Lebowitz, executive director of Sport In Society, a nonprofit research and advocacy center at Northeastern University in Boston that supports social and racial justice through involvement in sports, said that accountability for player behavior is an unwritten part of being a coach and that the accountability goes beyond matters of policy.

    “There’s a subliminal policy that’s already there, whether or not it’s written,” Lebowitz said. “All coaches are supposed to instill a code of ethics and an undercurrent of what sportsmanship is supposed to be.”

    He added that written policies alone will not eliminate unsportsmanlike conduct.

    “You try to teach leadership, but you can’t dictate behavior or legislate behavior, policy or not,” he said.

    Jackson said the decision to fire him and the other assistant coaches appeared to have been based solely on the team’s behavior during and after the Oct. 24 Potomac game. He said the dismissals were unfair.

    “If it was a culmination of things that led to this, when were you going to bring it to us so we could have a chance, as a staff, to fix it?” asked Jackson, who has coached high school football in the county for 24 years. “That wasn’t done, to my knowledge. The last thing I’m going to do is jeopardize my integrity or the school’s integrity by not having control of the team.”

    Goldson and Ned Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, said the county and state do not compile statistics on unsportsmanlike conduct. Both said they did not know how regularly unsportsmanlike incidents occur during games.

    Sparks acknowledged the difficulty in getting athletes to become passionate about a game while keeping them disciplined enough to conduct themselves appropriately.

    “It’s part of [players’] learning process to say to them, ‘Go after it, but stay within these guidelines,’ ” Sparks said. “If people lose sight of that, maybe you need a big course correction.”

    Sparks said that in his 29 years as the head of the athletic association, “only a handful” of teams have abandoned their seasons as a result of disciplinary matters.

    Goldson said such a move is “never our first choice.”

    “It sounds easy, off the cuff, to say, ‘That’s it, cancel the season,’ ” Sparks said. “But knowing what comes after that — the comments and criticism and second-guessing, maybe even your own self-doubt — I’d hope people wouldn’t use that as an easy way out.”

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