Tag Archives: ethics

What Should I Do and When Should I Do It – Ethics

by David Shulman
(PSA Legal Counsel – 1996 )

Reprinted with premission from :the Professional Skater Magazine
July / August 1996 – pp. 37 – 38.
©1996 by Professional Skaters Association

At the recent World Conference in Chicago, discussion was held on ethics as it may impact the skating coach. Many questions were raised dealing with the relationship between students and their coach and the quest of such students by other coaches.

Solicit… to seek to obtain by persuasion, entreaty, or formal application. To entice or lure.

Consider the following: You arrive at the rink at 5:30 a.m. to begin working with your new pair team. As you enter the office area, you note a large photograph of a coach recently hired in the rink and attached to the photograph is a listing of the coach’s background and awards. In prominent black letters is the statement the coach has been a past world team member in Pairs, has numerous medals from various skating competitions and has been acknowledged as an outstanding Pair coach. As you enter the locker room you note a message light indicating there is a phone message for you. You dial in your password and the following message is heard: ‘Thank you for teaching our children. We have decided to start lessons with Mr. X who has great Pair coaching experience and a vast background of accomplishments and experience. We hope you will understand.”

Do you understand? Probably not. At that moment you are furious for a variety of reasons not the least of which is the early morning hour and the frustration of having lost what you believe to be an outstanding pair team to an unethical coach. Did the coach act unethically?

Consider the same scenario, except as you approach the rink you note that numerous cars in the parking lot seem to have pieces of paper tucked into the door handles. Curious, you approach one of the cars and pull the paper from the door handle, open it up and read it. Inside on a printed sheet is a complete outline of the newly hired coach with a suggestion in the copy that if a student were to take from this coach they would have much better chances both at tests and in competition. Unethical?

Advertise… to make a public announcement of, especially to proclaim the qualities or advantages of (a product or business) so as to increase sales….to make known; call attention to.

Consider the following: Upon opening your mail, you discover a flyer has been sent to you extolling the virtues of a husband and wife team recently hired at your rink. The flyer describes their various accomplishments and appears to make statements leading a skater to conclude that if one or both of these coaches worked with them a remarkable improvement would be made.

As you are putting down the flyer, the phone rings and it is the parent of one of your best students calling to inquire if you knew anything about this particular coaching team. It is evident from the conversation the parent has only a mild interest but you are curious as to the manner in which the parent was contacted. It appears they also received the flyer and had no personal contact. Trying to be professional, you suggest that this is merely a form of advertising and there isn’t much you can say about the ability or the lack thereof. Within moments, your phone rings three more times with additional calls from parents which now has you alarmed. It seems each of the parents received the flyer and some of them have expressed an interest in “just trying out the new coaches”.

Is there an ethical violation? Would it be an ethical violation for you to make some comment to your parents regarding your thoughts about this type of conduct? Should you contact the coaches directly?

The law prevents a party from interfering with business-contract relations of other persons. For example, if a business man has a contract with another business, it is illegal and subject to a damage claim if a third party attempts to interfere with that contract relationship. The question arises as to the definition of the word “interfere”. If a direct contact is made with one of the parties by a third person which encourages the breaking of the contract, the law views this as a “tortious interference”. Such activity will subject the third party to a damage claim by one of the contracting parties who may have lost income or business as a result of the interference.

Indeed, it is possible that a coach who has a national competitor, a steady flow of income from the competitor and perhaps a contract with the competitor for future earnings, to make a claim against an invading coach who attempts to steal away the student by interfering with the student-coach relationship. Such a claim would be subject to proof and require direct evidence of interference.

It is a common experience in skating to have coaches indirectly contact your students. The Professional Skaters Association has made it clear through its Rules of Ethical Conduct that such contact, with the clear idea of obtaining the skater as a student, is not appropriate and will be sanctioned. The difficulty of establishing proof when the contact with the student is subtle, poses some obstacles. Is a birthday card sent to another student, not your own, appropriate?

Is a sympathy card sent to a student who is not your own, appropriate at a time of sorrow? What about offers to “just keep an eye on a skater at competition, not interfere in any way and I’ll be there if you need me….” a form of interference with the relationship between a student and another coach?

This article was written to raise as many questions as it might answer. Each situation must be addressed individually but you will know in your gut when something is wrong or when the action you are about to take is unethical. Consider this definition: General distribution of literature or knowledge of credentials and background is not considered to be solicitation. Personal contact with skaters or parents, directly or through a third party, with reference to lesson availability, credentials or invitation to instruct is a definite violation and should be considered solicitation.

If someone is creating a problem for you, analyze the situation carefully and try to find the bright line between aggressive marketing and interference with the business relationship between you, your skaters and the parent.

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Sports Ethics

by Susan L. Ward

Ethics is a complex philosophical subject because it involves the study of morality and human values. Defining values in terms of sports participation is a difficult task which all coaches must address. What is good? How do we judge what is good? In order to answer these essential questions, we utilize our standards, principles and belief systems. We may not all subscribe to the same values but we can simplify our ethical concerns when we examine issues in terms of minimizing harm and maximizing benefit. When we look at the paradigm of risk management, we can easily understand what “harm” means. Teachers do not cause harm nor do they risk harm to their students. On the positive side of the scale, teachers prevent harm and promote their students’ well being. In his book The Inner Athlete, Dan Millman says, “Second only to parents, teachers of movement can have a profound influence on a student’s self-concept and outlook on life.”

Many coaches teach the way parents learn to be parents: one generation repeating the best and worst of the last generation. It is not enough to know the subject matter and the methodology. It is necessary to have a philosophy, a code. Ask yourself: Why skate? Not everyone can win and we have all seen the importance of winning lead to cheating, soliciting, taking “cheap shots” and other unethical behavior on the part of athletes and coaches. But if winning is not the only thing, what other positive goals you can instill in skaters? If your teaching methods focus on concepts such as character development, sportsmanship, the cultivation of discipline, teamwork, fair play and self-motivation, you know the positive side of the scale: maximizing benefit. Skating is a sport that children cannot pursue without the support of their parents. Parents are legally, financially and morally responsible for their children. They are consumers and they do have rights. Most parents are primarily motivated by what they perceive is best for their child. Parents arrive knowing little if anything about skating but they can certainly be ambitious and competitive for their children. It is unwise to place the parents of your skater in an adversarial role. When a teacher or coach competes with a parent for control of a child, it is a Lose/Lose proposition. Besides, control is never a healthy or realistic goal.

Instead, a coach’s honest ability to communicate with both skater and parent is paramount. Consider the parent as your ally in the development of a well-balanced skater. An educated parent is the best advocate for a young athlete. The principles ‘to keep in mind are not new ones: teach with dignity, equality, privacy, loyalty, commitment, honesty and reliability. Your reputation will grow and the parents of your skaters will respect the work you are doing with their children.

Consider one parent’s perspective on reasonable expectations which parents place on coaches. Ann Masten, an associate professor of Child Psychology at the University of Minnesota and mother of two skaters, wrote the following list, previously published in Focus for parents, the newsletter of the USFSA’s Parents Committee:

What I Expect of My Child’s Coach*

  • - To teach my child this sport to the best of your ability.
  • - To promote the development of my child as a whole person, as well as an athlete.
  • - To respect my child and act in my child’s best interests.
  • - To be aware that you are one of the most important people in my child’s life, and to act accordingly.
  • - To honor the confidences of my child, except when it would endanger my child to do so.
  • - To inform me as soon as possible of any serious problems or concerns about my child or about my parenting as regards my child’s skating.
  • - To clearly communicate your expectations of me in this enterprise.
  • - To keep me informed on a regular basis (such as monthly) of my child’s general progress and to promptly address the questions or concerns that I might raise.
  • - To bill me accurately and with timeliness.

Reprinted with permission of U5F5A’s Focus for parents.

Coaches who deal with parents fairly enhance their own reputation in the arena. On the other hand, dissatisfied customers are all too prone to discuss their problems in the rink. Bad news is often embellished and all rink gossip is damaging. Minimize harm, encourage positive public relations by your own example. Keep the parent-coach-athlete dialogue in confidence.

The primary step in establishing healthy community relations starts with solid credentials. Most people are familiar with state education requirements in their schools. They know what certification signifies. In order to teach one must have learned the subject (skating technique) and how to present knowledge (methodology). Today coaches study physiology and psychology. Be prepared, continue your education and accept your ability as a teacher. Are you a good “kindergarten” teacher? Are you qualified and confident to teach the next grade? Do you realize that at the “end” of the year your child will be promoted? Do you hold back or let go? Are you willing to send the student on the next leg of the journey with your blessing even if you can’t go along?

Most importantly, the best coaches stop to consider their own motivations for coaching and are great motivators of their students. They are consistent in their approach and expectations of their students. They give all skaters a chance to become their personal best and avoid forming snap judgments or permanent opinions of skaters. They know that skaters will mature. No one can truly predict who has the most promise. Coach-motivators know that all people are different and have different styles and rates of learning. The best coaches are never too busy to listen. They keep confidences and promises.

The greatest coaches know that the best motivator is love; love of the sport itself, love of the process and love of teaching. All students benefit from the principles which these coach-motivators impart as part of the process. Everyone who walks into the arena recognizes them, not from their personal accolades, or skating achievements but by the accomplishments and attitudes of their students and the trust which parents place in them. They are real masters who teach with a commitment to excellence.

Reprinted with premission from :

The Professional Skater Magazine
January / February 1997 – pp. 16, 29.
©1997 by Professional Skaters Association

For more articles for skating parents, visit http://www.iceskatingworld.com/parents/letters_articles/index.html

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