Youth League Consistency
indictment and plea bargain agreement of Micahel Vick brings up some
interesting issues for youth sports and the application of rules dealing
with personal conduct. Depending on any eventual disciplinary action taken,
in examining the issues facing the NFL it may be possible for all of us to
run better leagues for our communities.
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Vick is one of the great athletes of our generation with an unparallel
ability to run with the football and heave it downfield a fantastic distance
along with incredible accuracy. However, he has consistently run into
trouble with the league, the fans and the law.
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Coach’s Corner, Continued
people accused of a crime in America are “innocent until proven guilty”,
with new commissioner Roger Goodell in charge, in the NFL and in youth
leagues there is a separate standard of personal conduct that needs to be
National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) has a Conduct Policy
that prohibits violent and/or criminal activity. There is also a provision
dealing with those accused, even if they are not convicted of a crime. The
National Football League (NFL), under Goodell, has instituted an even
stricter Personal Conduct Policy: “Conduct that undermines or puts at risk
the integrity and reputation of the NFL will be subject to discipline, even
if not criminal in nature.”
goes on to say: “It is important that the NFL be represented consistently by
outstanding people as well as great football players, coaches and staff. We
hold ourselves to higher standards of responsible conduct because of what it
means to be part of the National Football League. We have long had policies
and programs designed to encourage responsible behavior, and this policy is
a further step in ensuring that everyone who is part of the NFL meets that
standard. We will continue to review the policy and modify it as warranted.”
type of policy of personal conduct is just as crucial in youth leagues where
the players, parents, coaches and board of directors represent our families
and our communities. Especially in recreational leagues, while winning and
proper fundamentals are important, it’s the life lessons that have to take
precedent for us as we participate in youth sports programs.
The reason that
the NFL’s action is so important is that it sets an example for all of us on
how to enforce a code of conduct policy – will the NFL set the right example
or the wrong one for us?
are three key components to having a successful youth league code of conduct
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Coach’s Corner, Continued
enforcement of penalties is consistent;
policy has reasonable penalties that can be enforced given the nature of the
policy is clear, understood by, and agreed to all who are a party to the
code (players, coaches, parents and board members).
difficult aspect of this is consistent enforcement. Too many times penalties
are not assessed because the kid in question is a star or the coach is a
“good guy” and friends with board members. To have a successful policy EVERY
violation of the code of conduct needs to be strictly enforced with the
penalty stated in the code.
leads to the second key issue: to have penalties that are possible to
enforce. Giving kids two game suspensions for a curse word is certainly
unreasonable in a ten game season – the penalty is much too severe. I
recommend having graduated penalties that equate to the severity of the
infraction and/or the number of times a penalty needs to be inflicted upon
an individual. For some leagues fighting is a violation that will
automatically get a kid kicked out regardless of fault. However, having a
tiered penalty system with smaller penalties for minor violations and larger
penalties for others will allow for consistent enforcement. Penalties can
range from trash pick in the park or other local community service up to
missing some game time and even expulsion from the league.
this work everybody has to be on the same page and that means registration
should require the parents, volunteers, and players to all read and agree to
the code of conduct. The responsible behavior that you want followed needs
to be clearly identified as well as the potential penalties for violation.
Only by making a policy that is easily understand can it be followed and
NFL will set the right tone for all of us to follow in our own leagues by
how it handles Michael Vick.
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