Are Ethics important in sport?

Sail Canada Ethics

Absolutely! Canadians of all ages enjoy sports whether participating locally, in organized leagues or cheering our athletes. Participation is encouraged, enhancing our health and well-being. Cheering our athletes is a source of team and national pride. Competing unethically diminishes the joy and taints the process for all.

In the recent past, a series of high profile revelations in the sporting world has been a source of distress and dismay. Whether in college football, Olympic level gymnastics, or community leagues, they raise unsettling, painful questions and test society’s need for acceptable moral codes. Increasingly, the importance of ethics and, more specifically, ethical behaviour has been shown to be fundamental, not just in business, but also in sports.

Poor ethical behaviour can exact a high price. Reputational damage is sustained not just by the individuals involved. The practices of related sports organizations and their respective leaders are also called into question. In addition, there can be a real cost to this behaviour, both in terms of restitution to victims and legal action against perpetrators. Outstanding individuals will not join tainted organizations, and, rebuilding a tattered reputation takes significant time and effort.

Simply put, ethics are extremely important. Ethics help frame acceptable behaviour and contribute to developing credible, positive relationships. Ethical standards can limit the risk of bad judgment and its outcomes. Ethics help establish, promote and protect trust between people, whether in coach-athlete, coach-parent or athlete–athlete relationships.

As part of its mandate to keep sports healthy and safe, Coach Canada has developed the Responsible Coaching Movement (RCM). Sail Canada is a signatory to this initiative, joining an increasing list of like-minded sports organizations. As part of its coach certification programs, RCM provides training, tools, checklists and resources. Included is a four-hour mandatory ethical decision-making module, developed with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports, setting a minimum behaviour standard. Information is also available for parents and sports organizations. With the RCM, Coach Canada aims to create a crisis-free culture.

Yes, ethics are relevant in sports at all levels. Good ethics can help all participants better enjoy the sporting experience and feel more secure in fair treatment.

Alicia Damley, Board Member, Sail Canada
Prof. Leonard J. Brooks, Executive Director, Rotman School’s Clarkson Centre for Business Ethics & Board Effectiveness, University of Toronto

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