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Morality In Coaching Essay Research Paper

Morality In Coaching Essay, Research Paper

“Morality: The motives, intentions, and actions of an individual as they are directed toward others and how these are judged by the greater society (Beller, Lumpkin, Stoll, 1999, p.205).”

Our morals are a simple set of rules and guidelines that help us make decisions throughout our lives, both big and small. These rules and guidelines are what set us apart from others and our actions that are the result of our morals are what make us unique from everyone else. Throughout history it has been these moral actions, which have helped us judge others around us and judge ourselves. It is from these moral actions which help in determining who is moral and who is immoral (CN, Sept. 1).

It is from this perspective that I examine two Hall of Fame basketball coaches and legends of their trade. Bobby Knight and Dean Smith have much in common, each have won national titles, coached players to the NBA, run clean and well-respected programs, and graduated more than ninety percent of their players. But for everything they have in common they also have something different about them and their styles. If you were to ask random people on the street about each of them independently, you would surely elicit some very different responses.

Bobby Knight has spent the past three decades as the head coach at Indiana University, during which time he has one three national titles and sent many very productive members into society. During this time he has also been the constant target of criticism and controversy. There are also two completely different Bobby Knight’s that surface in the court of public opinion. One is of the man who helped raise some $5 million for his university’s library and is the object of near fanatical devotion from his former player’s and citizens throughout the state of Indiana. The other more prevalent view of Bobby Knight is that of and intimidating, temperamental, profane coach who regularly bullies referees, players and the media (Lupica, 1988, p.59). This begs the question, which one is the real Bobby Knight?

Is the real Bobby Knight the one who has graduated nearly ninety percent of his players and sent them off to be productive members of society or is he the tyrant who threw a bench chair clear across the floor during a game at a referee? This question brings us back to the original topic of morality. So is Bobby Knight moral or immoral? As I stated above, the only way to judge a person’s morality without actually knowing the person is through their actions. This being the case Bobby Knight is clearly immoral in my opinion.

Over the past thirty years as coach at Indiana University, Knight has persistently displayed a lack of moral character and decency towards others. From constantly berating players and referees to the blatant disrespect of co-workers and administrators, Knight has clearly shown he is indeed immoral. While no one can argue with his results, an overwhelmingly successful basketball program, his methods have always been questionable (Lupica, 1988, p.60).

At the other end of the moral spectrum, in my opinion, is Dean Smith. Coach Smith is also one of the most successful coaches in basketball history, but his methods are quite different from those of Coach Knight. While Knight tends to sway more towards the authoritative style of coaching, Smith used an often calm, tranquil and cooperative method of coaching to obtain the same level of success (Wolff, 1997, p. 36). Like Knight, in Smith’s 36 years as head coach at the University of North Carolina, he has molded many young men into positive members of society, not just in basketball. However, Smith has chosen a very different approach to achieving this success. He has been able to be successful without the level of anger and immoral behavior that Knight so often displays. I believe Alexander Wolff portrays it most accurately in his article on Smith in the December 2nd, 1997 issue of Sports Illustrated, “Dean Smith is the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the year because his teams won, his players graduated, the rules went unbroken. But we honor him as much as anything for his conscientiousness in pulling off that trifecta. He never forgot that the arena is but an outbuilding of the academy (Wolff, 1997, p. 37).” This seems to be a sharp contrast to Knight, who seems to have used the arena as his personal playground for anger and immorality. While at North Carolina it was never about Dean Smith, he always deflected the praise and adoration onto his players, assistant coaches and the university. This distinction between Smith and Knight clearly illustrates their drastic differences in morality. Because moral actions are the best and often only way to judge a person from afar, it seems pretty obvious that Coach Smith exemplifies morality, while Coach Knight is often viewed in the exact opposite light.

The most common images we see of Coach Smith is that of him embracing a player and making positive changes on the people around him, while the most common images of Coach Knight are those of his tossing the chair across the court, punting a basketball into the stands during a game and verbally abusing a player in front of millions of fans. These images and the actions they represent help paint a clearer picture of morality in sports and often the lack of morality. If it is as many people commonly say, a picture is worth a thousand words, then these images of Coach Smith and Coach Knight clearly tell the whole story in just one picture.

Beller, J.M., Lumpkin, A., Stoll, S.K. (1999). Sports Ethics: Applications for Fair Play, 2nd ed. Boston: WCB/McGraw-Hill

Class Notes, Spmgt 365, Ethics and Moral Reasoning in Sport. WSU, Fall 2000

Lupica, M. “A Shrieking Violet, Bobby Knight,” Esquire. March, 1988, pp. 59-61.

Wolff, A. “Fanfare for an Uncommon Man,” Sport Illustrated, December 2, 1997, pp. 32-48

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