BY MARCUS MITCHELL
These days, it’s all too common to read about a professional player suspended for domestic abuse or a college player being investigated for sexaul assault charges. This doesn’t mean that these issues didn’t happen in the past, but it seems that the bar has been risen and athletes are slowly starting to be held more accountable for their actions.
The era of talent trumping “off-the-field issues” is starting to come to an end. Now teams are taking harder looks at athletes who skip practice or spend their weekends partying. More than ever, players are having to put serious effort into being well-disciplined and aware of their decisions.
At UT, the priority of discipline ranks highly among not just the coaches, but players as well. While there is certainly a lot of effort put into making sure Spartans are fit and ready for an upcoming game, there is a large amount of importance to ensure that players are representing the university, their team and themselves appropriately.
“[Our] players sign a document that lists the expectations they have as a member,” volleyball head coach Chris Catanach said. “One expectation is that the players shouldn’t do anything that would embarrass or shine a poor light on our team.”
With two National Championships under his program’s belt, Catanach expects his players to not only play like champions, but act like ones too. In his 32 years coaching, Catanach has never had a player who intentionally skipped practice and believes “it is impossible to build a championship organization if you don’t have high expectations for attendance.”
Catanach and his coaching staff go to great lengths to make sure that his players understand the weight of their actions, even when they aren’t in a jersey. Rather than trying to police them through social media monitoring, Catanach opts to educate his team. However, he still understands that his players are attending a university.
“We expect [players] to maintain a trust bond with the team which is usually broken by excessive drinking or partying,” Catanach said. “On the flip side, our players are college kids who would like to experience college life– our hope is that they will do it in moderation.”
The importance of teaching moderation rather than outright banning drinking and partying speaks volumes about the expectations of college athletes. They may be superstars capable of great feats, but they are still college kids through and through. For athletes over the age of 21, drinking is a regular part of being a college student and this is the only time in their lives where they will be in college.
However, men’s basketball junior guard Austin Rettig still believes there should be a strong sense of responsibility for drinking and partying.
“[My teammates and I] all take it upon ourselves to hold each other accountable in that category,” Rettig said. “No one goes out before games, and if we handle business on game day, we celebrate accordingly.”
For Rettig, it’s important not to leave discipline entirely up to the coaches and to make sure that he is staying on top of things. Being accountable for your actions is a quality that goes far beyond winning basketball games or making record times while swimming. Decision-making skills are invaluable no matter if a player goes pro or stops playing after graduation since they will always face tough choices in their life.
NCAA athletes aren’t the only players intent on building strong values through sports, however. Junior communication major Chris Grisby, president of the flag football team, believes that just because his team is club, doesn’t mean that it’s a free for all.
“Our team’s discipline level would probably be considered a little more than average,” Grisby said. “Since it is a club sport that we pay for, players who skip will only hurt themselves by not being able to get as much play time.”
With a dedicated coaching staff and players focused on representing UT in the best light possible, the school is a good example on how athletic programs are educating players in areas beyond gametime. The times are changing and athletes aren’t getting the free passes and blind eyes that athletes of the past got. The bar may be raised, but the Spartans are already poised to stand far above it.