TODAY -

Sportsmanship maligned

By Seram Neken *



"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."
- John Wooden

The best of discipline is inherent in games and sports. Sports competitions are considered a war with strict rules and regulations coupled with discipline. Following the game rules, respecting referee judgments, treating opponents with respect etc distinguish sports from other activities. There is also an element of love among the players of both sides even if they fight tooth and nail in the field.

We all have experienced football players shaking hands after four quarters of knocking each other around. Tennis players are seen leaping over the net to shake hands with their opponents after a hard-fought match. Soccer players exchange jerseys after an intense 90 minutes. Even boxers touch each other's gloves at the beginning of each round, then hugging each other after beating each other into a pulp for 12 rounds.

Good sportsmanship is demonstrated when the player shows respect for his teammates, opponents, coaches, referees, judges and other officials. Everyone who participates in sport from athletes to administrators, from officials to coaches should take personal responsibility for ensuring the sanctity of sports.

Morals, values and ethics are as important as rules or laws. There must also be a highly enviable sanctified human relation between the coaches and players, if true spirit of sports and sportsmanship prevail. Stadia and playgrounds are considered next to temple as discipline, conduct and behavior rule the games and sports.

There is no room for personal enmity and craze for the self in sports. It is an obligation of coaches, captains and leaders too to define basic sports morals and values that they want their teams to adhere to, and then lead by example. Coaches are models whom players imitate the most.

After weightlifter Monica Devi's alleged political discrimination a few years back, Manipur is again in the news. It is deeply painful to hear a senior Hockey Coach attempting sexual harassment against a Manipuri woman hockey player. It is an unfortunate chapter in the history of women hockey in India that she was allegedly sexually harassed by team videographer, Basava Raja and the coach, MK Kaushik.

It is really a shock to sports lovers around the glove to see the shameful pictures of alleged sex scandal in various media. The sports ministry has initiated the probe on the allegations. The entire team management is now under suspension and investigation report of Hockey India's five-member Committee has been forwarded to the ministry. Hockey India General Secretary has already assured stringent action against the duo after due investigation.

Sexual harassment is a recognized social problem in sport. It consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Romantic or sexual relationships between coaches and players, even if it is with the consent of both sides, can be considered as an abuse of professional ethics, status and power.

Consensual or sexual relationships between coaches and players compromise the professional integrity of the coach and subvert the educational mission of sports. Coaches exercise power over players, whether in giving them praise or criticism, evaluating them, making recommendations or conferring any other benefits on them. Such situations greatly increase the opportunities for a coach to abuse his or her power or sexually exploit the player.

Voluntary consent by the player in such a relationship is also sometimes suspected, given the fundamentally unequal nature of the relationship. Such relationships can also cause a conflict of interest: how can a coach fairly judge a player with whom he or she is having sexual relations ?

Moreover, other players and coaches may be affected by such unprofessional behavior because it places the coach in a position to favor or advance one player's interest at the expense of others and implicitly makes obtaining benefits contingent on consensual or sexual favors.

Sexual harassment in sport deters girls and women from participating and developing as sportspersons. It has debilitating consequences both for its victims and for the society as a whole. In the context of sports programs, it lowers the self-esteem and limits the ability of women and girls to develop their full potential in sports and fitness activities.

It impairs the future capacity of its victims to experience full participation and to pursue employment and leadership roles in playing. This, in turn, deprives the society as a whole of the contributions of these women and damages a genuine appreciation of women's sports achievements and contributions.

A clear cut policy to exclusively deal the sexual harassment in sports will help create an organizational climate in which women and girls feel free to report such incidents. Setting policy on sexual harassment is also believed to decrease the likelihood of such offenses.

It is high time the civil society and various sports bodies pressurized the government to formulate, implement and evaluate policies on sexual harassment and sexual relationships in the sports arena.


* Seram Neken wrote this for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition) . This article was webcasted on August 03, 2010.



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