As of last week, coaches of sports at some institutions of secondary education were urged to make sure all eligible students-athletes are registered and ready to vote. The call came from institutional administrators under the assumption the coaches can tackle the task being in closest communication with student athletes.
The presented campaign sounds like a genuine effort to encourage athletes to follow up on the simple act of citizenry, and that is fine and even honorable. The request was presented as a contest among the sports: “Who will be the first to have the full team registered?”
However in my opinion there is no way the coaches should ever submit to such a form of extortion. Yes, it is our personal right and privilege to exercise our beliefs and that is what democracy stands for. Yet, coaches step in the wrong bracket as soon as we advocate or solicit something other than athletic performance.
Most recently, the worldwide address of cases of sexual harassment and other misuse of control by coaches in sports are just a simple example of what “position in power” means. To endorse politics being a part of sport is an equally dangerous activity.
Coaches are in very unique positions regarding their relationship to the athletes. There is no other parallel except the commanding officers in armed forces. While athlete careers are in the hands of coaches and the lives of soldiers are in the hands of commanding officers, we cannot abuse this unique relationship for anything else than the pure performance. The coach is in a daily and most intimate relationship with the athlete, and is first in the line of fire if things go south. Tons of literature has been written on this phenomenon and it is all true.
Unfortunately, our sports and playing fields are becoming political and social platforms for a variety of campaigns, while the pure sport is suffering immensely. Yet, while young athletes (in any sport) are making “highly educated and emotional” social and political statements, all active coaches should — and in large part are — staying out of it!
This is for a good reason.
All coaches know how emotionally intense and sensitive our job is. To abuse this relationship in any other direction other than sport performance is absolutely wrong. Anything other than pure sport changes the dynamics of the relationship. If the coach uses his position for any agitation other than sport, it is a full-blown criminal activity!
Human history is infested with ugly examples of misuse and abuse of sport for a political purpose. Sport is a purest expression of physical and mental qualities of an individual. We always perceived it that way, and should preserve it as a sacred commodity.
As an example of the unique role sports plays in the world: In the era of the ancient Olympic Games, a truce was exercised for a full Olympic year, even among the most stubborn enemies.
Do we have the same respect for what we do?