Voluntary vs mandatory camps – Parcells/Lewis overboard

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Ok, this referring to mini-camps and OTAs as “voluntary” has got to stop. Time and again in many organizations, players are told that the camps at this time of the year are voluntary. Yet, every day, we read about a player who is not attending these “voluntary” team activities for whatever reason and these guys are vilified by their teams and especially the media. Something has to give. I think the word “voluntary” just needs to be dropped because it seems that non-attendees are frowned upon as though they’ve missed a “mandatory” camp.

I look at the situation in Cincinnati with Odell Thurman. Let me preface my point here by saying the guy has major character issues and based on his history in the league already, he probably should have done everything he could have done to get to camp. And, I get the whole Marvin Lewis trying to put his foot down thing too (though it’s really too late for that really – Lewis probable needs to go). However, this was a “voluntary” camp and Thurman was late showing up due to the death of a significant family member – the grandmother who raised him. If he had missed the start of a mandatory training camp in a similar fashion without communicating with the team, I could see how that it would be a bigger problem, but for a voluntary OTA camp, this is harsh.

I also look at the Jason Taylor situation in Miami. I recognize that he is a veteran and that Parcells expects full participation. I can even see some football-macho concern for the reason he’s missing camp. But Taylor’s situation is a bit different from Thurman’s in that he is a model Dolphin citizen and has been one of the team’s most popular players. And, Taylor has even indicated that he plans to be back in town prior to the start of the first mandatory camp starting June 6. So again, Bill Parcells and Coach Tony Whoever-the-hell-you-are, if you expect full participation for a voluntary event, then don’t call it voluntary – you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. If I held a meeting at work that I wanted everyone to attend but I called the meeting “voluntary” and only a few people attended, I really don’t have the right to be ticked off (and if I were to get ticked, I’m really just being a whiny little wuss about the whole thing, aren’t I?).

Again, attendance at these camps is voluntary. If something is voluntary, I don’t understand why a player would be vilified or in Thurman’s case, dismissed from the team because they didn’t partake in the voluntary activity (especially if the excuse is reasonable).

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2 Responses to “Voluntary vs mandatory camps – Parcells/Lewis overboard”

  1. Joe Says:

    I have to completely disagree. They are called voluntary only because the labor deal prevents them from being mandatory. They are not called voluntary because there not important. We used to have voluntary basketball practices before the official WIAA season started – my teammates and I (at ages 14-18) were smart enough to figure out that they were really mandatory in the sense that if you weren’t there coach would know and it would count against you.

    I have no tolerance for this kinds of stuff. I get that his grandmother died and it was right to be with family at that point in time. But did she die in the only place on the planet without a phone? He couldn’t call and say, “I was planning to come. I understand the importance of being there but Grandma just died and I need to be here right now.” The entire issue would have been avoided with a phone call that any 16 year kid would have enough common sense to place.

  2. awhayes Says:

    Joe,
    Interesting points, but I disagree. Regardless of the reason for calling these camps voluntary, they are called voluntary (including the Bengals camp), so technically Thurman should not need to account for his whereabouts (though I do agree here, a phone call wouldn’t have hurt). And, while your basketball example is understood, those were still voluntary practices – you didn’t have to go and your coach shouldn’t have judged you on whether you went or not, but on how you played when it was mandatory. I did the same thing with soccer. We were “highly encouraged” to play club soccer in the spring, but the high school coach couldn’t mandate it. I actually chose not to, and rightfully, it didn’t affect me negatively at all because it was “voluntary” and I just made sure I was prepared come fall.

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