Recently we had the privilege of attending the Texas Organization of Christian Schools Psalm 78 Conference. At the P78 Conference, we attended a workshop given by the dean of nursing at Maranatha Baptist University in Watertown, WI. Kelly Crum spoke on Creating an Environment of Civility in the Classroom. Many of her points are also applicable to our athletic departments.
In an era where hazing incidents are reported seemingly every day, creating a culture of civility is of the utmost importance. According to StopHazing.com, 47% of students are the victims of some form of hazing before they enter college. We wonder how many of these students are subject to incivility at Christian schools.
Whether it is hazing or bullying. The culture of your athletic department is crucial. As the athletic director, it is your job to make sure that your program has a culture of civility.
What is Civility?
Kelly Crum defined civility as:
having respect for the differences of others and being able to discuss differences with dignity”
It’s no secret that everyone is different. However, among teenagers, many try to hide their differences as much as possible. The teenage culture is one of conformity; not to Christ but to each other.
Therefore, someone with noticeable differences sticks out. A civil atmosphere is one that welcomes people’s differences. Recognizing that members of the body of Christ should differ greatly from one to another, is a huge step in developing a civil environment in your athletic department.
What is Incivility?
Crum further elaborated that incivility is:
disregard or insolence of others often leading to an atmosphere of disrespect”
People are people. Sin permeates the heart of all men. All students and athletes are capable of incivility. There are some, though, of whom incivility is a default setting. Many times those that are uncivil towards others are the one who are hurting the most. These people are typically the major contributors to an uncivil environment.
The second part of Crum’s definition of incivility reveals the two-way street of the concept.
Civility should extend from peer to peer, authority to peer, and peer to authority.”
An uncivil environment is not only a culture of disrespect towards those who are different, but it’s a culture of disrespect for authority.
A direct quote from Kelly Crum during her presentation:
Incivility is pervasive and leads to discontent and uncertainty.”
Contributors of Incivility
There are many things that contribute to an uncivil culture. The main factor being the sin nature of all humans. However, one of the biggest contributors according to Crum is authority figures not paying attention.
Whether it is athletes not paying attention to a coach or vice versa, uncivil people do not value instruction or input from others. Not paying attention to students can also cause you to miss key signals of someone who is a victim of incivility.
Another contributor to an uncivil environment is the use of humor or sarcasm by authority to discipline. Not only is this uncivil, but it can be a form of bullying.
Humor is an effective tool. Sarcasm can open the eyes of smarter people to see the error in their ways. Using either technique as your main source of dealing with problems will lead to an atmosphere that devalues civility and puts a premium on putting down others.
Fostering a Civil Athletic Department
Hopefully now you can identify your athletic department as either an environment of civility or incivility. Our guess would be that overall, most Christian school athletic departments are environments that teach Christian principles. However, some do so in word only. Their actions indicate an uncivil atmosphere.
What can you do to foster an atmosphere of civility in your athletic department?
Crum stressed the importance of fostering effective and meaningful communication. By this she means that all those in authority must model effective behavior. Leadership and culture start at the top.
Model civility in your everyday life; expect the same of those who work for you.
To further foster a civil athletic department, you and the other coaches need to seek to have crucial conversations with all athletes.
Remember, a key contributor to an uncivil environment is not paying attention to those around you. So many times people are crying out for help through their actions, attitude, or even just their appearance.
Don’t be scared to ask some key questions. After getting some information, remind these athletes that they are people created fearfully and wonderfully in the image of a loving God.
Crum also said:
Vision and action together can change the world.”
Have a vision of what you want the culture of your athletic department to be and then operate out of those principles. Principled leadership is crucial. Fostering civility is foundational to being a leader.
Crum also stressed that all members of an environment share in responsibility to that environment.
Set clear expectations of how your athletes should act. How should they treat each other? How should they carry themselves? What behavior is non-negotiable? What behavior is preferred?
Finally, mentoring is a key part of building a civil athletic department. Guide others to follow God in civility by sharing with them. Invite them to walk along side you.
It is important that the athletic department of Christian schools are accurate pictures of the body of Christ. One key way to do that is foster a civil environment. Athletes should know that their Christian school and their sports teams are places of acceptance, love, and instruction. Too many times, athletes from non-Christian backgrounds are turned off to Christianity as a whole because of what they experience in Christian schools.
Create an athletic culture of civility. Celebrate the differences of your athletes and point them in the right direction.