Tragedy Revisited; Noncompetitive Spirit
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Tragedy Revisited Unplanned Parenthood").
Then came word of a strikingly similar case at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., leaving one to wonder how common such acts of desperation might truly become - and whether past episodes have gone undetected. The Associated Press reported that Katie McCoy, a sophomore member of the BU women's golf team, was charged Oct. 25 with the murder of her newborn daughter in a university residence hall. An hour after giving birth, McCoy, 19, allegedly placed the baby in a garbage bag and let it fall into a toilet, which she later told police caused the infant's death.
But like Rhodes, McCoy first attempted to cover up her situation. She did not discuss being pregnant amid the suspicions of family and friends, then denied giving birth, even after her roommate had discovered the baby in a trash room down the hall and called police. Eventually, McCoy divulged that she had hidden the infant in a gym bag. According to the AP report, "a state law that took effect in 2002 generally allows parents or people acting on their behalf to anonymously drop off newborns they cannot care for at selected 'safe' locations, including hospitals or with EMS personnel, police officers or firefighters, without fear of criminal prosecution. The goal of the law was to eliminate incidents of newborns being left in trash cans, public restrooms or other unsafe locations."
Likewise, the goal of Sorensen's work is to promote campus atmospheres that encourage openness among first-time mothers. "This is the last thing that any of us want to see happening - athletes feeling so desperate that they don't even know that they can safely abandon their children at a hospital," says Sorensen. "I hope we're not starting to see a pattern of coping with pregnancy in this way."
In October, the NCAA Division I Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet proposed that pregnancy to be included on a list of medical conditions that preclude institutions from altering a student-athlete's financial aid. Current legislation only provides such protection for student-athletes who sustain an "injury." The NCAA Division I Management Council defeated a motion to consider the proposal as "emergency legislation," but requested that the Board of Directors sponsor the legislation.
Sorensen, who will serve as a panelist at the NCAA Convention in January, currently knows of 69 schools that have student-athlete pregnancy policies. (Bellarmine, which like Mercyhurst is a small Catholic university, does not, according to media relations director John Spugnardi.) "Unfortunately, even with all of our policy work, it may be another five years before beliefs and behaviors change at the athlete level," Sorensen says. "If there is any silver lining, it's to underscore the absolute urgency of making the environment more safe - not only for the athletes, but for their babies."
Noncompetitive Spirit A recent study of nearly 300 youth rec-leaguers suggests that winning games doesn't necessary lead to their sense of enjoyment or fulfillment through sports participation. Rather, the study found, an environment that promotes having fun, self-improvement and maximum participation and effort is more beneficial to young athletes' growth.
Two professors from the University of Washington researched the psychology of 268 predominately white and middle-class Seattle Parks and Recreation Department basketball program participants.
Researchers found that young people thrived in "mastery motivational climates," which stress effort over competition, compared to "ego climates," in which winning is supreme and personal success is measured by competition results.
"In terms of athletes' ratings of how much fun they had and how much they liked playing for their coach, our results showed that a mastery climate was about 10 times more influential than was the team's win-loss record," researcher Ronald Smith told the UW office of news and information, adding, "We also found that a win-at-all-costs ego climate was negatively related to enjoyment and liking the coach."
Researchers did find that athletes who played on teams with better win-loss records believe their coach to be more knowledgeable about the sport. However, they also found that athletes in a motivational mastery climate are more apt to play for the coach again and enjoy their team experience.
UW sports psychologist Frank Smoll summed up the findings for the university's news service. Said Smoll, "So much of what we do is based on the ideas of what adults think kids need without looking at the kids' perspectives."
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