Trampoline As A Sport
Dispensing Life-Advice to Our Trampoline Students: The Ethics of Telling Our Kids What to Do Outside The Gym
When we decide to become trampoline coaches, whether in the sport of gymnastics, recreational trampoline, competitive trampoline, or any other field of personal development, we enter into a social contract that is more complex than most people think. This contract has two basic levels: First, is the deal made with the parent or guardian of your athlete, if the athlete is not in the age of majority; basically, the individual paying the required fees, including tuition at the place of training. This level of our contract seems like a simple transaction between consenting adults – guardian pays you (or your gym) to train the athlete – you agree to provide the service that has been paid for. Second, we enter into an agreement with the athlete to provide all the necessary conditions for them to progress in the sport of their choosing. It is this second level, or our convention that I want to focus on, here, and attempt to make clearer the correct dynamics of the coach-athlete relationship.
As stated above, the stipulations of the second level of the agreement are that we, the trampoline coaches, will facilitate progress in the discipline in which they [the athletes] have chosen to become engaged, AND that the athletes will follow the rules and guidelines of our training regimen in order to achieve said progress. We must pay very close attention to the second part of this statement, because it puts the role of the coach in a position of undeniable authority. From this position we have the ability to make fundamental changes to the way our athletes perceive us, and more importantly, themselves. Given this point we have, in fact, and as I have said before, the ability to change lives. Many people who by some reason or other have fallen into this place of power ignore the possible ramifications of the messages they convey to those in their charge. And the debate can be had that if a younger practitioner, whose perception of their instructor is of great value, comes to us for advice on what could be considered private matters, we should offer it to them. And countering this argument is difficult without knowing the context of the athlete’s request. What this argument truly does, however, is put the relevance of our contributions to certain issues in a very clear perspective.
Here I will advise all trampoline coaches to refrain from entering into conversation about private affairs with any minor in their care. Aside from the emotional/psychological repercussions of dispensing bad advice, even inadvertently, the legal and ethical implications of advising a person under the age of majority on their behavior outside the gym are vast. Now, this is not to say that all request made for assistance or help should be ignored; on the contrary, a child in duress should always be given support by those he/she trusts. My only contention here is that as coaches, we have the moral responsibility to ensure that these instances of rescue are justified. We have the intellectual duty to the athlete and to ourselves to investigate the occurrence adequately before telling anyone how to act, or even how we should behave given the circumstances. I hope that it is safe to conclude that most of us understand that endorsing alcohol and drug consumption, violence, and conversations about sexuality are not part of the coach-athlete relationship framework.
Moreover, I would advise all coaches to communicate any such disturbances to other adults in the trampoline gym, even if they don’t feel that it is of much importance. The idea is that if the athlete’s request justifies action by those he has approached, a better informed tactic can be applied to the solution. It is imperative that we remember the impact of our conversations with our athletes, mainly due to the authority this contract gives us, but also because we have not direct way to verify the conditions in which a person exists outside the confines of our gyms. Always observe general standards of ethics, and those that are important to your place of training. Ethics are absolutely important in all aspects of social conduct, they play an significant role in making good behaviors permanent, and they ensure the stability of all our relationships.
Follow Peyton Dracco on Twitter at @pdracco
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