Student Athletes Adrift

The prestigious nonprofit Josephson Institute of Ethics in California has been studying high schoolers' habits since 1992 and found a troubling upward spiral of cheating, stealing, and lying over the ensuing years. A new institute study looks specifically at attitudes and behaviors of high school athletes. The results aren't encouraging.

The survey questioned some 4,200 high school athletes across the country earlier this year. The institute describes the results as a "chilling picture of a confused generation floating in moral relativism and self-serving rationalizations." Whoa.

Among the findings: Boys tend to show (more than girls) cynical attitudes and engage in cheating. Just a few "for instances" of that - males and females alike thought it was OK to: use a stolen playbook of another team, (males, 42 percent; females, 22 percent); let coaches instruct a player to fake an injury in order to get an extra time out (males, 39 percent; females, 22 percent), and deliberately inflict pain in football to intimidate an opponent (males, 58 percent; females, 24 percent).

How can such attitudes be so prevalent, when sports are supposed to build character in teaching the values of fair play? Here's a clue: The study also found 31 percent of males (25 percent of females) felt their coach was more concerned with winning than building character.

So it should come as no surprise that the institute found athletes who believe that "in the real world, successful people do what they have to do to win even if others consider it cheating" (males, 56 percent; females, 45 percent).

Parents and coaches must do more to help encourage good character and ethical behavior on the playing field and off. By their own actions, they can better demonstrate fair play, caring, and sportsmanlike conduct.

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