Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Coach's Duty to Report, And Our Duty to Train

The Illinois legislature is probably going to pass a law requiring higher education and athletic program personnel to report child abuse when they see it. Can't really argue with that one- you can maybe ask why it took so long, but I suspect that few people really understood the threat before Jerry Sandusky, and I dunno, I'm uncomfortable blaming people for not anticipating every possible act of evil.

That being said, at the end of the linked article, State Rep. Lou Lang (who I've met, and is pretty alright) makes a point that is well taken. See, a "duty to report" can only be the first step here. We also have to give higher education officials and athletic program personnel training to help them know WHAT to report.

Athletic programs, especially at the high school and collegiate level, are insular and hierarchical. The athletes and the coaches spend so much time together that they lose perspective. The coaches have so much untamed authority that it takes an act of affirmative courage to question them. This is what really happened at Penn State- Joe Paterno had been with Jerry Sandusky for so long, he couldn't IMAGINE that he'd be a sexual predator, and Paterno had so much power that no one thought to question him when he did...well, far too little to address the problem.

So, telling coaches and staff to report anything they see isn't enough, we also have to train them to look past their own biases and preconceptions. This is obviously a long, continuing process. It's not as simple as just passing a law (and I have a lot of sympathy for legislators, passing a law is actually extraordinarily hard). And, of course, we all have to do this harder, longer work (which is becoming a constant refrain on this blog).

But credit where it's due; this is a start, and a good one.

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