12 October 2011
How will your club manage players who behave badly?
Some days the news seems full of headlines about sports stars behaving badly. Some criticise the players, others say we expect too much of our sporting idols, while some claim that clubs should have better policies and tougher penalties in place.
But we all know that poor behaviour is not restricted to elite athletes and, from time-to-time, players at all levels do or say things they may regret. So how do we encourage and teach players to behave appropriately? And what sort of policies should clubs have in place to manage and penalise those who cross the line?
What is bad behaviour?
'Bad behaviour' is a very broad term. It could include acts that are simply against the rules of the game, as well as behaviour that may be illegal. Following are a few examples:
• a player verbally abuses a referee or official
• an athlete is caught taking an illicit drug
• a young club member is bullied by a fellow team member
• a player is found to be cheating
• there is an off-field altercation between a player and a member of the opposing team.
How do we encourage good behaviour?
There is a lot we can all do to encourage a culture of respect and positive behaviour among players at club level. Following are some simple suggestions:
Develop an effective club policy: Obviously clubs can't produce a policy to cater for every possible situation. Rather, guidelines should be developed to outline the minimum standards of behaviour for all participants.
Play by the Rules has developed a Code of Behaviour template that has been used by many clubs throughout Australia. It is short, easy-to-use and broadly caters for all the examples listed above and more. Simply insert your club logo or use it as the basis to develop your own policy document. Also check with your sport's governing body, your relevant state or territory sport department or the Australian Sports Commission for some more useful templates.
Go one step further: Develop policies that deal specifically with issues often directly related to bad behaviour in players (e.g. an Alcohol Policy or a policy on drugs). Identify the types of behaviour that are most likely to occur and create a list of penalties to match. That way everyone knows the rules and what the consequences are if they are breached.
Make your policy live: Policies means nothing though if they are not promoted, implemented and enforced. Get all players to read and sign the document each new season. Make sure coaches and officials also read and understand it, and highlight parts of the code in newsletters and online.
Find role models or mentors: Young players tend to idolise elite sportspeople, but it's the older athletes and coaches within the club structure that can offer a more direct and powerful positive influence, particularly to those that may get into trouble from time-to-time.
How to deal with an incident or complaint?
Despite the policies, the education and the encouragement, it's almost inevitable that your club will have to deal with a player who has behaved badly, either in or out of the sporting arena.
Remember, that acts involving abuse, harassment or violence may be unlawful and, like illicit drug use, should be reported to the police. However, many acts of bad behaviour can be dealt with by the club by following some basic processes:
• speak to a Member Protection Information Officer, who can provide information and moral support to the person with the concern. Click here to find one in your sport and/or state.
• treat complaints seriously and act promptly
• have a complaints procedure in place that clearly outlines the process for dealing with incidents of bad behaviour
By implementing these policies and following some clear processes, hopefully we will only see our players in the papers and on the TV for all the right reasons.
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