College athletes throughout the nation commit to following specific rules and regulations, such as supplement restrictions, immediately after signing on to play for a university.
Recently, however, college athletes are being held to a moral standard as well. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics maintains a specific set of values that athletes are required to adhere to.
Coaches, athletes and administrators take online classes every year to reacquaint themselves with the program’s goals. According to the NAIA Champions of Character, their goal “is to provide training to instill the values that build character so students, coaches, and parents know, do and value the right thing on and off the court.”
John Brown University athletics, as part of the NAIA, encourages student athletes to uphold the five core values emphasized within the NAIA program. These values include integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership. The last value is emphasized throughout JBU in the form of community service.
“I know that all of the coaches encourage [community service],” Conner Bedor, a junior on the cheerleading team, said. “I don’t think it’s just because of Champions of Character.” Each athletics team tries to serve within the community at least once a semester, Bedor said.
“A lot of times I don’t even think about it. It’s not like I’m doing a service activity; it’s easy and really fun,” senior cheerleader Rachel Baack said.
JBU athletic teams participate in service projects ranging from volunteering in a soup kitchen to helping cleaning houses.
The entire cheerleading team, for example, participated in the Siloam Springs Heart Walk last year. One of their teammates had undergone heart surgery when she was younger. The cheer team wanted to support her by participating in the heart walk.
“We led stretches for everyone who was doing the Heart Walk,” Bedor said. While the NAIA does not require a certain number of community service hours, Bedor said that at JBU, volunteering is not presented as fulfilling a quota, but as an activity that promotes Christian love and service.
“Because we go to JBU and all the girls are so kind it is just really dear to all of their hearts,” Bedor said about volunteering.
“I’ve really enjoyed being part of a campus that encourages that,” Baack said about volunteering. “At JBU it’s really not a difficult thing to find ways to volunteer.”
While JBU student athletes may find it second nature to volunteer in the community, but within universities nationwide such acts are not the norm.
According to the NAIA Champions of Character, “Research shows that the longer a student spends in sports, their social reasoning – sacrificing for the good of the team – rises, while their moral reasoning skills – doing what is fair, just, honest and noble – decline.” The NAIA tries to combat this occurrence by requiring sportsmanship training and encouraging leadership within the community.
While time as a college student is an all-too-rare commodity, Baack encourages student athletes to step outside their comfort zone and volunteer.
“I think it’s really shown me the importance of stepping outside myself and recognizing that the things that I think are so small can be such a huge blessing for other people,” Baack said.