My first present from my father was a soccer ball. I was two years old, and had just begun to walk. I joined my first soccer team at age three, and from that moment on until my senior year of high school, I went to soccer practice every single weekend. When I was little, it was all about the fun of the game. That was until I joined my first travel soccer team, The Yorktown Amazons.
We were eight years old, and my father was our coach. I played on the same team with the same girls for the next ten years of my life. As soon as middle school rolled around, team parents were already starting to talk about college scholarships. All of a sudden we had enormous pressure to perform well in tournaments. We went on to win first place in countless tournament for the next few years, and became classified as a Northeast Region 1 Premiere team. This was a huge achievement. After clinching some more wins, we had succeeded in becoming nationally ranked.
However, the road to glory was not as easy as I just made it sound. In the game of soccer, just as with life, unethical behavior can sometimes give you an advantage. For example, I know from experience that it is fairly easy for a team member to fake an injury or a foul an opposing player in order to get the ball back. For instance, pretend for a moment that you are a defensive player. You are one-on-one with an offender on the opposing team. They are heading for the goal and you fear that they will pull ahead of you. You know that your team will have a better chance of preventing a goal if the opposing team has a free kick rather than a wide open shot in front of the goal. What do you do? Foul her outside of the box. This way, your team can recover back towards the goal, and set up a defensive strategy to increase our chances of getting the ball back. As long as you do not trip her inside of the box, you will usually not receive a yellow or red card and get thrown out of the game. With the enormous amount of pressure that we carried on our shoulders, these type of fouls were commonplace (among others). There are countless “strategies” such as this that people use in the world of sports to gain advantage in a game. But where is the line drawn between strategy, and poor ethical behavior?
During my senior year, I was tripped by a member of a different team while playing in the State Cup Tournament final. I completely tore through my hamstring. The same “strategies” that my team had used on others, had been used on me. I was done. I would never be able to play in another soccer game with my team. I would never be able to play Division 1 soccer. Everything that I had worked so hard to accomplish meant nothing now. I had given up hundreds of weekends (seriously hundreds) to go play in tournaments down in Virginia, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, etc. I would never again be as fast or as strong as I had once been. I was completely crushed. All of this pain stemmed from one personal foul against me on the field. I couldn’t help but wonder, had I done this to anyone at some point? I felt terrible.
On another note, I feel that there are no sports organizations that are perfect models for ethical behavior. Every organization that I can think of has had some scandal or debate about their behaviors. For example, in the sport of Jockey, some horse owners have been known to break horses legs if they are not performing well enough, or even murder the horses, in order to collect insurance money and purchase a new young horse. Is this ethical? NO!!!!! It actually disgusts me that animal cruelty such as this exists at all.
It took me forever to locate this clip, but I finally found it. I remember when I was younger and saw this for the first time, I was completely shocked. It has been burned into my mind ever since. In the following clip we see pro soccer player, Tab Ramos, taking an elbow to the head. Would you classify this as “strategy” or “unethical behavior”? Why?