This Article is About
consistency
commissioner roger goodell
national football league
proper fundamentals
code of conduct
Youth League Consistency
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The Federal 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.

Clearly Michael 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.

While 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 met.

The 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.”

This 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?

There are three key components to having a successful youth league code of conduct policy:

1. The enforcement of penalties is consistent;

2. The policy has reasonable penalties that can be enforced given the nature of the league;

3. The policy is clear, understood by, and agreed to all who are a party to the code (players, coaches, parents and board members).

The most 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.

This 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.

To make 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 enforced.

Hopefully, the 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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