Today’s Athletes

The American Football Association Foundation recently conducted a survey of NCAA football coaches as to what social issues they need help with as coaches. Ohio State, LSU, Miami, and North Carolina are but a few schools indicating help is needed. Four primary areas were identified. In order they are:

How to discipline today’s athletes. Often athletics is the only area of discipline in the life of some athletes. Even that breaks down off the field. Many of today’s athletes lack a father figure in their past. The coach becomes somewhat of a surrogate father.

Athletes need to be taught respect for authority, manners, and inter-personal skill. In general discipline is needed regarding respect in all areas of life not just sports. Often property rights are unknown.

Self-discipline is lacking. This explains why so many athletes playing for coaches who are really trying to teach them more than a sport appear to fail. It is the athlete who fails him or herself and mak es the coach look bad in spite of all of his or her efforts.

An expectation of entitlement is a second factor. Athletes feel entitled to perks, pluses, and praise. Most athletes developed in youth if not juvenile programs where they were rewarded regardless. Kid’s ask, “If I come to practice will I get ice cream,?” or “Do we get a trophy for being on the team?”

In college they feel entitled to special favors, recognition, and rewards. They rather expect boosters to covertly reward them. Just being able to participate isn’t gratification enough. This caries over in all of life for them. It is also a trait of non-athletes.

Our government and society in general trains youth to expect entitlements. A loving parent often gives a child an allowance. Ask the child why he or she gets an allowance. You will get an informed answer such as because I am a member of the family, or other kids get one. Instead of an allowance make a list of things needing to be done and the m onetary reward for each. Let them grow with a sense of earning what they get.

The third area in which help is felt to be needed is how to help athletes deal with drugs. Ten years ago this was the number one need. It is still a major need. The lack of self-discipline complicates this issue. The positive results are thought to be worth the risk. “Positive” results are they develop muscle mass or they make you feel good. They fail to realize the negative consequences of drug use which are many.

The fourth factor is abuse. Parents’ or guardians’ physical and/or verbal abuse is extensive. I worked with a group of college students this summer at a time they felt freedom to be transparent. It was a catharsis for many. The percentage of them having suffered abuse was astounding. Sexual abuse was prevalent. Relatives were often involved. All the victims spoke of feeling dirty, unworthy, devalued, and inferior. We were able to work through some of the issues for some and hel p restore self-esteem.

Coaches deal daily with these issues. If parents dealt with them more constructively coaches would not have to be surrogate parents.