By the Rules

January 29, 2015
What should a coach do when he or she is committed to playing by the rules, but an opponent is not? Here's how you can help.
By Dr. Mike Davenport

Mike Davenport, EdD, is Director of Rowing, Head Coach of Women's Rowing, and Assistant to the Athletic Director for Professional Development and Compliance at Washington College. He writes about professional sustainability for coaches at: www.coachingsportstoday.com and can also be reached at: mdavenport2@washcoll.edu.


I remember the look on her face. She came into my office, sat down, and painfully announced, "We lost our game last night. The other team cheated."

This was one of the most honest coaches I know, who never blamed others or blew a situation out of proportion. She was not just venting.

"They broke a conference rule, it gave them a competitive advantage, and I'm not sure what to do about it," she said.

When conversations like these happen, it's very important for an athletic administrator to be prepared. At the heart of the matter is a rule being broken, but there are other issues to consider.

I believe most rule violations are unintentional or a misunderstanding, and thus warrant acting carefully. For example, as a team leader for the 1996 U.S. Olympic Rowing Team, I was questioned by racing officials and the FBI on whether our team's coaches were using radio transmissions to gain an unfair advantage. Even though it was not true (television broadcasting equipment was found to be the culprit), the stigma that we might have even entertained the thought of cheating was a tough pill to swallow.

In many ways, relationships are central to moving ahead when you suspect a violation. Your relationship with your coach, your athletes, and the other program will all be affected. With that in mind, here are six steps to consider when violations by others are brought to your attention.

Step 1: Thank your own coach
Some coaches will take matters into their own hands when they believe an opposing team is breaking a rule. Often this makes a bad situation worse. Your own coach coming to inform you and ask your advice is showing a sign of maturity and trust in you. Therefore, you need to come through for her.

The first part of that is to affirm that you appreciate the coach's decision to discuss the matter with you. "Coach, you did the right thing coming to me," can be important words to voice. Remember, relationships are critical here and you want the coach to know you have her back.

Step 2: Discuss with players
Today's athletes are savvy and know a lot. Continual access to the Internet and social media creates a spotlight that bares all. Chances are, if you know about an infraction, your players do too. And if they don't, odds are favorable they soon will.

We suggest to our coaches that a short, simple statement to players, with carefully chosen words, might be called for. Something along these lines might work:

"I want to let you know a rule may have been broken by the other team in last night's game. Steps are being taken to address the issue. I'll let you know when the issue is resolved, but in the meantime we need to move on, not focus on it, and not be involved in any discussion about it, especially on social media."

Step 3: Contact the other coach
Now for the hard part. Your coach needs to skin her own skunk. Ask her if she is willing to contact the other coach, directly. Let me explain.

You are asking your coach to make a courtesy call to the other coach. It is not about accusing. The purpose is to help a fellow coach and his or her team stay out of trouble.

If your coach has a solid relationship with the other coach, then simple wording for the call might be, "Hi Jane. My athletic director and I had a meeting this morning, and we are concerned that a conference rule may have been broken in last night's game. I want to bring it to your attention so you could address it, and I hope you would do the same for me." Then let the call go where it may.

I know this sounds difficult. However, when done in a positive manner, it can actually be a building block toward a stronger relationship between programs. The important thing here is not to accuse. It must be clear that your coach is trying to help a peer do the right thing.

If you feel that this option should be avoided, or the call flopped, there is a next step.

Step 4: Contact the other team's athletic director
Now the action to take is yours. Place a call or send an e-mail to the other team's athletic director or program director. This is what administrators are expected to do and, again, the focus should be on relationships. This step might get more action in terms of addressing the violation than the coach-to-coach call, but it has the downside of likely putting the other coach in an uncomfortable position. Similar to the coach-to-coach call, I suggest not making any accusations and simply starting a conversation.

Step 5: Report it to your conference
If you decided against Steps 3 or 4, then it's time to contact the governing body responsible for rules violations. This is a serious step that may have ramifications. There will be protocol established for this, depending on the organization, so get ready for possible paperwork and follow up.

There is also the possibility that the friendly conversation with the other school will not resolve the problem. Maybe they say, "Thanks for the call," but the violation continues. In order to support your coach and the integrity of the sport, a call to the governing body is a must in these cases.

Step 6: Be patient
The issue has been addressed, and now it is time to wait. This is not easy to do, but if the wheels have been put into motion, allow time for the violation to be resolved. Remember, the next contest is right around the corner and that is where your coach's focus is best placed.
From New World Of Coaching
As a coach, you probably want your athletes to work their hardest every day. But many times, purely making this expectation known isn’t enough to create a fire and drive in athletes. Coaches need to not only explain their expectations, but also take steps to create a high-performing culture.
SEARCH for Products
SEARCH for Vendors

Keep your Players Hydrated

The Filling Station, powered by Waterboy Sports & The Ultimate Hydration System, is revolutionary in the sports hydration industry. It’s the ONLY sports water bottle filling systems that can fill sports water bottles quickly, cleanly and efficiently – making sure YOUR players are hydrated at the most critical times of competition – ON THE FIELD! … CLICK TO READ MORE...

Quickly Respond to On-Field Injuries

When an injury occurs on the field the last thing you want is to be unprepared. Cramer’s Tuf-Tek Back Pack offers an abundance of space giving you access to the tools that will allow you to treat any injury that comes your way. The Tuf-Tek Back Pack is constructed out of the latest nylons that … CLICK TO READ MORE...

A Better Way to Connect

It seems that hardly a week goes by without athletes, coaches, or administrators somewhere getting involved in ugly battles on social media. It’s all too easy for pleasant and innocent online conversations to quickly devolve into insults and threats. Emotions can overrule reason when people are defending their school or team. This is especially true … CLICK TO READ MORE...

Versatile Flywheel Trainer / any speed, any force any angle

VersaPulley is an inertial flywheel-training device relied upon by many of the world’s top teams, universities, therapists, and trainers to prepare their athletes for the highest levels of competition. What differentiates the VersaPulley from its competitors is the ability to perform exercises in both a horizontal and vertical application. This allows its users to train … CLICK TO READ MORE...

Revitalize Your Athletic Spaces with Aurora Storage

If organizing your facilities is a priority, it is essential for administrators to order storage that is specific to the athletics industry. Aurora Storage, a respected manufacturer based in Illinois, specializes in such solutions. By working with each of their clients on an individual basis, the design team at Aurora Storage creates customized units that … CLICK TO READ MORE...

VIEW MORE ARTICLES

Stay at the Top of Your Game!
x
Receive articles like this by signing up for our newsletters