In this post will try to address who is responsible for particular moments in sports where bad sportsmanship was displayed and a few moments where good sportsmanship was displayed. I will be giving 2 examples of bad character or bad moments in sports, particularly in football, and 2 examples of great character, 1 in football and 1 in tennis.
To start off, who is responsible for character development in Sports, at any level whether it is Sunday, youth, semi-pro or pro leagues? if you answered the Head coach and coaching staff, then your are not wrong. If you answered the Referee and match Officials, again your are not wrong. finally if you answered the players are responsible for their action, there is some truth to that. The answer is complex, I will give my theory and view on what I think. Really there are 2 main parties in my opinion the first part should start with the Head coach and coaching staff, because they are the supposed to be the role models. Coaches should develop more sympathy with their players connect with them professionally and emotionally on and off the pitch. The coach should pick on behaviour and triggers that indicate help is needed. Along with this the coach should do what they say and be a role model. We see many cases Coaches yelling at Referees this behaviour triggers that this is ok for the players to do, hence we see lots of protesting with players and referees as well. This leads to the second part, the Officials should be more strict, and dominant even if it means the fans will be angry. Officials should do as the title state official over the players. Finally the obvious the players should also take responsibility for themselves, but this requires to be true to oneself and be open and vulnerable. This way they can get the help they need and address some of their behaviour by requesting help or someone to talk with. That out the way let us get to the incidents.
The first one that comes to mind is the 2014 last group match Italy vs Uruguay, if Italy tied only, they would go to the next round. Luis Suarez had bit the defender Giorgio Chillini, while the defender protested to the referee nothing happened, no reprimanding the player nothing just carry on the referee says and Uruguay managed to score a goal and knock out Italy. In this incident there are a lot at fault in my opinion, I would say most of the blame would be on the coaching staff, they had known of Suarez previously doing this in 2 other occasions, in any professional team they have an expert staff and sport psychologist I believe no one took the chance to address the past incidents with this player. Of course, the player is at fault, but there can also be a psychological reason behind his biting behaviour, so I blame the coaching staff for their lack of communication with the player, whether it is for the national team or club. The second person at fault would be the referee, as he saw the bit mark and yet provided no disciplinary action for the player, one would argue the pressure of a world cup can cause even the greatest referee mess up, I won’t disagree, but I would say doing the right thing does not depend on the situation. Ultimately the player is also at fault, I mean he is a grown adult but still, we cannot put too much blame on him cause again I am not sure if he some psychological problem that caused this behaviour and what action he took, yet he is also at fault none the less.
These are my theories for this incident and what I think could have been done to avoid this situation. The Coaching staff or someone on the team who is part of the sport psychologist, which big/professional teams should have, should have noticed the previous 2 incidents, and developed a session with the player. The Referee should have disciplined the player with a minimum yellow if not red card. Maybe, the player should have probably worked on self and asked for help, but it is difficult to be vulnerable and ask for help. FIFA banned him for some matches, even though they did it in the previous 2 incidents.
The second incidents is quiet near and dear to my heart as I was both an Italian and French fan and wanted to see a final between Italy with Pirlo and company and France with Zidane and company (probably my 2 favourite figures in the sport) World Cup final, France 1, Italy 1 and extra time, Past trends indicate that France would win if they went to Penalties. So I believe that everyone was calm, Italian players do what they do best defend and provoke. We then see out of nowhere Zidane headbutts defend Marco Materazzi. With a few communications between the officials a red card was produced. I believe it is the right decision, there are few things that also make it controversial for example why would official look at video replay which was not allowed yet I think the right thing was done even if it was against protocol and the 4th official even though he cause a lot of drama with speaking out and getting the 1st official to give the red card he did the right thing. I think in my opinion someone like Zidane with his experience and talent should have kept his head cool, no pun intended, but he did not which is a big disappointment for me. He also did this a few times while he was playing in Juventus, yes, I am Football fanatic, yet I will leave some links about that later. Also, there is some talk about Materazzi saying something about wanting his sister instead of his shirt, I mean come on!
This is not needed at a professional level, but I guess to take the most important player on the other team and provoke him somehow, so it could be called a stroke of tactical genius. I believe it is silly, this type of behaviour is done with non-professional Sunday league players. So, I think they are both at fault, mainly Zidane for losing his composure. Yet referees were spot on this time they did the right thing even if it was breach of the law of the sport.
Here is reference to the incident and a video commentary
I will give a few short examples of great character, Gary Lineker probably one of England’s elite strikers had never received a red nor yellow card. I think it shows how he had a great sense of character and discipline; I cannot say if that was his own doing or it was due to himself plus great role models but he’s definitely an amazing example of great character in the sport of football. Should be featured more often. Second would be Casper Ruud and I saw this live this year during the US Open, he could have said that he won the point could have probably gotten the moment to win the match who knows. Yet he admitted that he did not get the ball within the law of the game and gave the point to his appointment and lost the match, but he did not lose respect nor his integrity to the game and great sportsmanship. I think he shows great character to admit this on this type of stage.
In short the responsibility starts with the Coaching Staff, the head Coach should be able to speak openly with the athletes and treat them as humans, these days were are in a consumerism world and fast paced and results we tend to neglect the human aspect. Along with the head coach when they can speak with the players they should be able to help or identify what the player might need. If they need more open and confidential conversation they should be able to refer them to the sports psychologist on the team, for non-for-profit or smaller clubs this might not be an options unfortunately which we need to fix. Teammates are great support they will note something wrong or off in their fellow teammate, the issue might be to speak out to someone like the coaching staff about it, and finally also the player needs to own responsibility, the athletes themselves need to practice being vulnerable it is not easy to be vulnerable and ask for help especially if there is past trends of deception and mistrust. It is a team effort in the end not one person can do it alone.
Below is a diagram in my opinion of the degrees of influence. The thicker the Line the more influence the closer the node the closer the pull, the relationship or the trust.
The following are the sequence diagrams for the identification process in my opinion.
On the pitch or during match games diagram
Off the Pitch Diagram
As we can see it is a tough process that involves everyone.
With this I close my blog post!
If you want to reuse the Diagrams above or modify them feel free to download them below.
Casper Ruud – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WX39QWfnEfc
Top 7 football legends that did not get a red card – https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/footballers-never-sent-off-barcelona-26548639