That’s the question students taking USD’s newest addition to the course catalogue were asked on the first day. The course, EDUC 379: Character and Athletics, is a course that is designed to explore just that: the relationship between character and athletics. The class is taught by Edward DeRoche, director of the Character Development Center, and CJ Moloney, coordinator of the Character Development Center, who have been discussing the relationship between athletics and character for the past three years. Both DeRoche and Moloney are former athletes and have been teaching with one another for 13 years in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES).
DeRoche and Moloney hold athletics near and dear to their hearts and have branched off of their own experiences in order to teach this course. “Many colleges offer sports courses but not with the ‘character’ emphasis,” DeRoche said. “We wanted to offer student-athletes at USD the opportunity, through an academic course, to examine the interplay between character and athletics; to investigate and critique programs that are designed to enhance the character of athletes; and to discuss/debate current issues that promote or negate character development in sports.”
One of the purposes of Character and Athletics is to encourage students to explore who they are as athletes in a greater context. “With the predominant presence and influence of the media on our society and culture, it is safe to say that the media does indeed infiltrate the character of athletics,” said Moloney. “Our culture reveres athletes and makes them look more like super-human beings and rock stars.”
Even from the first meeting, students are encouraged to work together as part of a team. A critical assignment is to brainstorm words that correspond to the word “character” that start with the letter each student is assigned. Students came up with a wide variety of words that relate to character, as well as qualities that are expected or demonstrated by most college athletes.
Even the classroom set up plays an important part. The U-shaped conference style allows for a direct interface between classmates–no one’s back is to another, which encourages everyone to be a part of the discussion. Everyone is part of a team.
A strong message on anti-bullying is also given, since the topic is so prominent amongst American culture today. Recognizing that bullying is a common occurrence amongst athletes, DeRoche and Moloney were motivated to recognize the importance of teaching students to learn how to gain a higher consciousness about honoring humanity.
Students are not required to be athletes in order to take the course, though the current class widely consists of student athletes.
“I wish there had been a course like this offered while I was an undergraduate student,” said Moloney.
As with any new class, the ability to offer the course in future semesters will depend on its current students. Yet the benefits don’t just extend to athletes–any positive approach to understanding character development in everyday life settings is ultimately the true reward.
– Ann-Marie Auger-Andrews ‘12