I’ve never liked Mick Malthouse. There is just something about him, a certain smugness perhaps, that meant I never warmed to him. There was also the small matter that his teams, particularly in the old West Coast days, were particularly unlikeable despite having many great players and a lot of success. Despite ‘our’ history, I was still surprised earlier this season when he was involved in an incident with an opposing player during the match. To my mind, and also that of the AFL tribunal, his actions clearly overstepped coaching ethics. In the heat of the action, many things are said, often regrettable things, but the coach must remain above that part of the fray.
Sadly it was actually less of a surprise to me to hear that at least two experienced coaches at Australian Junior Volleyball Championships apparently took their coaching ethics not from the AVF Coach’s Code of Ethics, but direct from Mick Malthouse. I heard of one situation where a coach targetted an opposing player for abuse during a match and another where a coach abused the losing team after a match. While Malthouse obviously acted unethically at least he was a dealing with an adult who could defend himself (and was seemingly no angel). However, the two (or more?) cases at AJVC were not only unethical but the worst kind of bullying, in one case an adult male towards junior girls. Bullying is not acceptable the schoolyard. It is not acceptable in professional sport. How can it be acceptable for junior volleyball?
It is more than just sad that in 2010 there are still junior coaches who consider such behaviour to be appropriate and unimaginable that as a volleyball community we continue to accept it. It seems though, that we do.
To give you another of AFL ethics in action…
Michael Voss was interviewed prior to his team playing Carlton recently and he announced that they would be tagging Chris Judd. The quote reads:
“Voss believed run-with roles were simply a part of the game, and told reporters he will ask his players to do ‘everything they possibly can do within the rules’ to stop Judd should he take the field on Thursday night at Etihad Stadium.
“We’re here to win four points, (so) you do anything you possibly can within the rules of AFL to ensure that you give your team a chance to do that,” Voss said on Monday.
“If you’re not prepared to do it, then go play marbles.”
So the question remains in sport, how far is enough? Do coaches and players engage in gamesmanship and when does this become unethical?
Should cricketers walk?
Should volleyballers own up to net touches?
The debate is a difficult one but does it simply come down to integrity? Unfortunately showing integrity and strength of character may not necessarily win you matches/titles. In many sports it seems that the ends tend to justify the means. Should this be the case in Junior Volleyball? I think not. I know for a fact that in the UK there is a massive dropout from Junior Volleyball beyond the Under 18 competition group. Have we placed to much emphasis on winning and failed to instill a pure love for the game in young people?
I believe the answer lies with the individual coach and his/her philosophy. What do we want to achieve as coaches and is this realistic with the players we’re working with? Are the teams aspirations collective or imposed by the coach? What culture do we have within our club/school programmes and why do young people want to buy into them?
If we can honestly answer those questions as coaches then we’re part of the way towards developing personal philosophies. If we’re honest enough about our own aspirations as coaches then the integrity thing should take care of itself.
As for Mick Malthouse, I am disappointed that he was naive enough to take the bait offered by Stephen Milne. His comments were obscene but I’d be interested in why he was so jaded in the first place. Probably owing to his team being down at quarter time? Lets see how they go tomorrow in their second fixture of the year!
I’ll write a bit more on this later, but I have one interim comment on the Voss statement. I find it interesting that while he says ‘within the rules’ what he means is ‘what the umpires allow’. There is a very clear difference between the two. If he was actually instructing his players to act within the rules, his instructions would be completely different. It is also interesting that it is not only Voss who understands ‘within the rules’ in this way.
As for walking and owning up to net touches, there is nothing in the rules about either. I would suggest that it is actually very difficult to act outside the rules in volleyball. The one exception I can think of is the rule about screening.