By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck LLC
We've all heard about the recent college admissions scandal in which wealthy individuals, some of them celebrities, paid exorbitant amounts of money to ensure that their children were admitted into colleges they probably did not deserve to attend. Many of us were shocked and angered at the audacity of these rich parents. Should we take a look in the mirror before judging them?
Don't mistake me. I'm not defending what these people did. Paying to pretend a child had an athletic background so he or she could be admitted as a player on an intercollegiate team, paying to have someone take a test for them, despicable actions. And illegal. They should face whatever consequence comes their way. It is also possible that because of these actions, some qualified high school athletes were left off teams in favor of fakes. To many reading this, that may be the biggest affront.
But is our outrage skewed by the vast amounts of money that were involved? Are we so sure that if we were in these folks' financial situation we might not entertain the idea of doing the same thing? Because, think of it this way. Let's imagine that to those people $100,000 is the equivalent of $100.00 to most of us. If someone said they could arrange to get your child into the school of his or her dreams for $100 would you be tempted?
Here is why I ask. High school administrators will tell you that rarely a day goes by without someone calling and demanding special treatment for their child. They want their child transferred to another class because the teacher is being unfair. They lie about why their child missed school so that there are no ramifications. They live slightly outside the district boundaries but they want their child to be able to attend this school. When they are told no, they want to know who they can speak to at a higher level. They threaten to go to the district office, they threaten to sue. And these are not not necessarily garishly-wealthy individuals who are used to buying whatever they want. These are “ordinary” people who will do anything in their means to ensure that their child gets what they think is best, even if it means another child has to suffer. Just like the celebrities in the admissions scandal.
Years ago I wrote an article here around the Little League adage, “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” It focused mainly on sports-related issues. Parents who confronted a coach, lobbying for more playing time for their children. Who, when that didn't work, went to the Athletic Director to complain. Parents who would gladly use nepotism and politics to land their child a spot on the team or a slot in the starting lineup. I asked, 'where does it end?'. When you clear the path of any obstacles for your child, when you ensure they never face any adversity, never fail, how long can you keep that up? Are you going to be able do this after high school? After college? Forever? Sooner or later every child needs to learn to stand on their own two feet and, more importantly, get back up after being knocked down. Don't they?
Again, ask yourself, if you knew that slipping the high school coach $100 would mean Johnny would make the team, or be a starter...would you consider it? If the answer is yes, are we any different from a moral standpoint than those who have been ensnared in this scandal? If we are willing to bend or break rules to give our children advantages, what message are we sending? What life lesson are we teaching? If we are so blinded by our wants for our own children that we don't think or care about the consequences our actions may have on others, we are raising selfish, dependent and entitled children, not autonomous and healthy adults Yet parental jockeying and influencing for advantages happens every day in nearly every school and team in the country.
It seems that before scoffing at the “high and mighty” individuals who are facing charges over admissions cheating, we might want to be careful we're not so high and mighty ourselves.
Brian Gotta is a former youth baseball coach and volunteer Little League board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels and a baseball coaching book which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org