What To Do About Ethics

Scenario #1: You’ve been hired to judge a local contest, you’ve checked the conflicts and don’t have any groups you are judging that you are not eligible to.  You judge in the morning, and on a lunch break, a parent approaches you about giving a lesson to her daughter, whom you have judged all day and will judge again.  What do you do?

Scenario #2: You are asked to teach some private lessons a few times a year for a large group of twirlers.  You then are asked to judge a regional championship in an area of the country where that group competes.  What do you do?

Scenario #3:  You are asked to give a routine to an athlete who you know trains with another coach or program.  What do you do?

Recently, writer Guvan Singh Riar wrote:

“Ethics concern an individual’s moral judgements about right and wrong. Decisions taken within an organization may be made by individuals or groups, but whoever makes them will be influenced by the culture of the company. […] Ethical behavior and corporate social responsibility can bring significant benefits to a business.”

Guvan Singh Riar, Why is ethics important to business? https://blogs.accaglobal.com/2014/11/25/why-is-ethics-important-to-business/

How do we, as baton twirling coaches and judges work within the principles of ethics?  How do we add value to the activity, to our businesses, to our sport, and to the youth we work with through the application of established ethics? What are standard practices we must expect and execute to uphold the five most basic concepts of ethical behavior?

  • Integrity
  • Objectivity
  • Professional Competence and Due Care
  • Confidentiality
  • Professional Behavior

To answer the questions first presented, we must look at the established code of ethics set forth by the governing body (USTA) for coaches and judges — available in the Members Only section of the USTA website — and reflect upon its application to the situations and the appropriate handling of such situations with professionalism and integrity.

Scenario #1: A parent approaches you — a judge should never engage with a parent in such a way at the competition.  Your polite and positive response would be to let the parent know you are not in a position to discuss something of that nature, but feel free to contact you personally, or via her coach (the preferred channel) at a later date.

Scenario #2: You are contracted — either written or implied through action and payment — to teach private lessons for the students of a larger organization.  Technically, you are not interacting or working with many of the members of this large group and therefore, have no knowledge or awareness of those other students.  However, perception can be reality. “There are things known, and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception”. If you are paid and hired by an organization, would it be the perception of other organizations that you are “tied” to the one paying you as an agent of them?  How should you be perceived in this instance and what adheres to the 5 basic concepts of Ethics?

Situation 3: How to handle the acceptance of a transferring/shared student.  Each professional must have their own set of standards in how they handle such situations, with adherence to professional ethics and conduct.  We must also consider the nature of our community — we often work closely together and are familiar with almost everyone at competitions. When the first contact is made, do you ask the parent what the goal is of this lesson?  Is the current coach aware that they will be coming to you? Who is the “team” of people contributing to this athlete and what is your role within that “team”? Communication is key, with the absence of a hidden agenda or any duplicity being paramount.

The U.S. Figure Skating Association asserts:

“Sports are based on the premise that participants strive to do their best to win under an established set of rules. The participant who turns in the best performance under established criteria is the athlete who should “win.” Ethics and ethical codes are at their heart about the fairness, honesty and integrity of competition. […] The ethics of sport are also about the human value of the athletes, coaches and officials. They are about respect and integrity. They are about keeping the focus on the athlete and on the ice and not on personalities and side issues. Ethical rules do not produce good sportsmanship, that comes from the character of the [athletes], coaches, officials and parents. The ethical rules are a reminder of the minimum that is expected of people in [the sport] and set a floor for behavior. Conduct below the floor is harmful to the sport and to the development of athletes.”

U.S. Figure Skating Association, Why Ethics Are Important In Sport, https://www.usfsa.org/Story?id=%2083746&type=leadership

Above all, we must remember that, in general, we work with children.  When unethical motives step in the way of the experience of the child, we not only compromise their enjoyment of the activity, we may jeopardize the reputation of our profession and overall growth of the activity.

One idea from Education that applies to our consideration of ethics involves the concept of the education of the “whole child.”  Dr. Maria Montessori wrote:

“[i]t is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, cognitive.”

What Does It Mean to Educate The Whole Child, https://www.howwemontessori.com/how-we-montessori/2015/09/what-does-it-mean-to-educate-the-whole-child.htmll

When we are able to look at the “whole child” and are able to keep enjoyment, sportsmanship, health, and safety as the goals of the activity, we can build the grass roots of the activity.  If we are only motivated by champions, domination and creating “elite” athletes, we may lose the base of membership where those athletes are found.

Some of the factors to consider in this approach are:

  • whole body learning through movement (mind and movements are part of the same entity)
  • learning through all senses (the child is connected to their family, school, community, culture, environment)
  • whole brain learning (utilizing both left and right sides of brain)
  • promoting well-being of the whole child (physical movement/education, nutrition, character development, spiritual development, mindfulness, physical and emotional safety)
  • looking at the child as an interconnected, whole being

So, where does this dovetail with the topic of Ethics?  Everywhere. Each child benefits from a positive interaction with their peers, role models, and mentors.  Whether you are a coach or judge in our activity, to thrive, we must hold basic concepts as significant to our sport and our athlete interaction:

  • Behave with integrity
  • View with objectivity
  • Possess professional competence and nurture with due care
  • Maintain confidentiality
  • And, always display professional behavior

Holding key principles of excellence are an integral component to any successful enterprise. Together, we can build our activity, create excellence in our sport and in our athletes, while keeping the door open to all levels of success.  Through ethics, we rise.

Kyle Keiser

The first lesson at age 5 would never have foretold the future National championships or career of coaching and judging in a dozen countries; producing numerous National champion and World medalist teams, pairs and individuals. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Marketing/Advertising, Kyle decided to continue twirling and color guard instruction she began as a 15 year old. Today, Kyle is the choreographer and visual coordinator for the 300 member Western Michigan University Bronco Marching Band, the University of Virginia Cavalier Band and other high school programs. She coaches her athletes at the Bronson Athletic Club as a personal trainer for the sport of twirling, along with traveling to coach in other countries and programs. She has held offices in State and Regional councils, along with years of dedication to the Technical Advisory Group. Kyle is a master judge/clinician and remembers her first nerve wracking WBTF judging, as the only US Judge at the Frankfurt, Germany World Championships so many years ago! Kyle also manages and owns several industrial properties to keep her business skills challenged.

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