There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ or haven’t you heard? | TheUnion.com
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There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ or haven’t you heard?

Three days ago, two University of Tennessee football players, Brent Schaeffer and Bret Smith, were suspended indefinitely after being charged with allegedly hitting another student. That same day two University of Georgia football players were arrested for disorderly conduct for their alleged roles in a bar fight.

These are just two of the hundreds of stories published each year about student athletes getting themselves into trouble. I could be writing this column any week of the year and would have been able to find examples like this.

Each and every time I read a story about an athlete getting arrested, the same thing always runs through my mind: How can they be so stupid/selfish to give up all of the great opportunities they have earned by getting into trouble?



This past fall, Schaeffer was the first true freshman to start at quarterback in an Southeastern Conference opener since 1945. After competing with fellow freshman Erik Ainge for the starting job during the first few weeks of the season, Schaeffer broke his collarbone.

This spring he resumed the fight with Ainge for the starting job, that is until he was charged with a misdemeanor assault stemming from an incident involving his girlfriend and another male student in a campus dormitory.




Why?

That’s all I want to know.

This is a player who had the ability to start at one of the most coveted positions in football at a major Division I program, yet he has risked all of that with his recent actions.

Schaeffer has been suspended indefinitely with his coach, Phillip Fulmer saying in a statement, “They made a bad social decision and were poor representatives of our team.”

I think the key word in that statement is team.

Obviously, Schaeffer does not respect that word as he would have realized the impact his actions would have on his teammates, not to mention thousands of UT fans.

Athletics are slowly becoming “what can the team do for me, instead of what can I do to make this team better and be a good team player.” Selfish, egocentric attitudes have crept into locker rooms everywhere – how can we reverse the trend?

We can’t wait until these athletes reach college, mess up and then ask how to fix the problem – the problem needs to be addressed while the kids are growing up.

No athlete should ever be treated like he or she is more important than the rest of the team – no matter how talented the player becomes.

Strict codes of conduct should be written and athletes should be forced to adhere to them. Athletes should be taught at a young age that if they are willing to put themselves in front of the greater good of the team, than they are choosing not be a part of that team or are choosing to accept the punishment that fits the crime.

I don’t want you all to think that I believe athletics should be ruled with an iron fist because I do believe that sometimes kids do make mistakes while growing up.

The important thing, however, is how the administration, coaches and parents deal with those mistakes that will impact the athlete’s behavior later in life. If the athlete is simply given a slap on the wrist or not forced to take responsibility for his or her actions, what is going to deter that athlete from acting out and again?

I think parents especially play an important role is this character development. In high school, I was more afraid of what punishments my parents would hand down to me rather that the athletic department if I found myself in trouble.

Somewhere along the lines, Schaeffer came to believe that he was above the law and did not take the consequences of his actions seriously. It’s too late now to have prevented his brush with the law, but its never to early to try and prevent the same scenario from repeating itself with another talented athlete.

Boundaries need to be established, they need to be consistently enforced and they need to send the message that it is simply unacceptable to be a part of this team and misbehave.

Stacy Hicklin is a sportswriter at The Union. Her column appears Wednesdays. She may be reached via e-mail at stacyh@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4244.


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