“Don’t take any pictures. I don’t want to be seen with alcohol” is a typical line that high school athletes of Singapore American School say when they hang out with friends over the weekend. These student athletes are cautious for a reason.
At SAS, athletes are required to sign a Code of Conduct that restricts them from consuming alcohol and tobacco while participating in a school sport. Unfortunately, this Code of Conduct is not cut and dry and often leaves student athletes feeling confused and frustrated.
The first issue with the Code of Conduct is its inconsistency. Although every freshman, JV, and varsity coach is required to distribute the form, the Code of Conduct is not enforced the same way on every team. Several second season sports athletes felt that the Code of Conduct was indeed taken seriously by their coaches, meaning there would be consequences if they were caught drinking. Senior and varsity girls’ basketball manager Lainey McMullen said she “had to sign the contract” even though she didn’t play a single game.
However, some of the athletes from other teams felt it was fine to drink during season because their coaches “didn’t mind.” A girl varsity athlete who chooses to remain anonymous said she was required to “sign an IASAS contract, but our coach never talked to us about drinking during the season.” Is it fair for one team to be held to different standards than another?
In order to see if the Code of Conduct was equally distributed to all athletes on freshman, JV, and varsity teams, an anonymous survey was sent out to the entire high school student body. The question asked was simple: “If you participated in a high school sport, did you sign the code of conduct?” The results showed that 18% of the respondents did not sign the document that restricts them from drinking or using tobacco products during season. Although the Code of Conduct is not always taken seriously, senior and track athlete Savanna Thomas believes “it is beneficial for students because it helps them compete at a higher level.”
Many student athletes agree with Thomas, but others dislike the inconsistencies in enforcement. While it may not be equally enforced, the Code of Conduct has received changes in the last few years. Athletic director Mimi Molchan explained that “the Code of Conduct used to be called a contract.” When students signed the contract, there were serious consequences for athletes who broke it. The punishment would be removal from the team for an entire school year. The school administration and athletics office realized there were problems with the previous contract and decided to make a change. Molchan would spend “days in the office with students denying their actions and parents lying for their kids.”
The constant lying and denial acted as a catalyst for making changes to the contract. The superintendent at the time decided athletes should receive “immediate punishment, instead of punishing students over a long period of time.”
Instead of removing someone from a sport they love, athletes now face various consequences when the Code of Conduct is broken.
The Code states that the coaches have the ultimate authority to establish their punishment, whether it be removal from a game to being permanently kicked off the team. Once an incident of breaking the Code of Conduct has been reported by a reliable source, athletes are required to meet with the coaches and possibly the Athletics Director to discuss what will happen next. Molchan explained that each student is handled on a “case-by-case basis.” This is due to the fact that every sport is different. While basketball may have 30 games a season, swimming only has four meets. Because of their differences, punishments vary.
“Taking a basketball player out of one game would not be big deal, but taking a swimmer out of one of their very few meets could cut into a huge chunk of their season,” Molchan said. Molchan also stressed that the variation in punishment is not because one athlete is “more privileged than another.” Just like anything, there are a variety of factors that go into deciding the consequences.
The inconsistency of enforcement between teams is not the only controversy related to the Code of Conduct. Interestingly, it is not handed out to everyone participating in an after-school activity or organization at SAS. It is distributed only to athletes, not students involved in activities like Student Council and Honor Society.
Why is the school only concerning themselves with athletes? Why doesn’t the Code apply to members of the French Honor Society or Student Council? Sure, athletes compete at a high level. There is certainly a large amount of dedication and self-regulating that goes into being an athlete. But there is also hard work and dedication required for the student body president or secretary of National Honor Society.
Many students are a part of both student council and sports. Senior, Michaela Santillo is involved in varsity swimming and three different honor societies. She said, “Both activities are a huge commitment” but she only “had to sign the contract for swimming.” Santillo believes that “people drink regardless of the Code of Conduct.” And she is frustrated with its inconsistency. Ideally, she said, “the restrictions should be clear and cover everyone, or just not exist at all.”
Another point of controversy is the fact that some of the other schools who compete in IASAS (International School of Bangkok, Jakarta International School, International School of Manila, and Taipei American School) do not have to sign contracts restricting them from consuming alcohol and tobacco. Katy Lewis, a senior at ISB, said the players at her school “understand that they shouldn’t drink too much, but there is nothing in writing.”
Despite the Code of Conduct not being required at other IASAS schools, it is not unpopular. According to Molchan, SAS sent out an anonymous survey at the end of last year and nearly 80% of high school students felt that the Code of Conduct should be a requirement for athletes to sign.
Although there are both supporters and opponents of the Code, it is clear that the document is far from perfect. The administration has proven that change can be implemented, but the Code of Conduct’s future is unknown.