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Sports culture suffered another blow in the past couple of weeks when high school quarterback standout, Mark Sanchez, now at the University of Southern California, was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a female student. This follows an NCAA investigation of whether the parents of Heisman Trophy winner, Reggie Bush, also of USC, gained some questionable housing advantage from a businessman supporter of the team. And this follows national attention focused on allegations of assault and rape against some members of the Duke University Lacrosse team.

Athletics at the intercollegiate and professional levels are microcosms of society. There are good people and not so good people who play sports. It’s not too surprising, therefore, to think that “bad things happen” from time to time. So the fact that these kinds of incidents occurred is nothing new in American sports, but then again the intensity and frequency of such incidents seems to be increasing

Negative fan behavior, near-violent parents, cheating prima donna athletes, belligerent coaches, and dishonest officials are all now a part of the American sports scene.

So how do we move sports culture back toward achievement and sportsmanship? It’s a complicated issue, one that’s rooted in the moral fabric or lack of it in culture at large, in elementary and secondary schools, and in the home.

There aren’t enough rules or honest officials to keep athletes from misbehaving on and especially off the court or field. It all goes back to each person’s moral code.

This is one reason I’m a fan of the NAIA’s “Champions of Character” program. In this intercollegiate organization of some 300 schools nationally, the focus is on winning and on character: Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Sportsmanship, and Servant Leadership.

Cornerstone University has experienced problems, sometimes serious problems, with student athletes. But the university draws lines of acceptable behavior for student athletes and coaches and, when necessary, holds accountable those who cross the line. Sports in this context is part of life, not isolated from it. A student or a coach wins when he or she is at their best as athletes and as people. Demanding that athletes behave properly is even more important than demanding that they perform their sport well.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

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