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Tripping over Grayson Allen: A Social Worker’s Perspective (By Charlotte Warren)

Born and raised a basketball fan in NC, you either love Duke or you hate them. But everyone can agree that Coach K is one of the best coaches in college basketball. Grayson Allen tripped one player, then two, and now this season his third. After media scrutiny that Coach K better take action before the NCAA gets involved, Allen was suspended one game and lost his position as a captain. I haven't made any judgments or assumptions about Grayson Allen because I don't know him and I don't know things from his perspective. The media made comments alluding to the state of his mental health, specifically his anger, some even suggesting that he talk with someone. I agree with them and hope he has been referred to receive assistance from a mental health professional and continues to follow through with treatment. I also sincerely hope this has occurred, especially because of the limited consequences he received for his actions.


B.F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning shows how his behavior of tripping people has been positively reinforced by the media. Grayson Allen received lots of media attention due to his behaviors, and as the saying goes, “all publicity is good publicity.” However, Skinner also notes that since he received limited consequences, he is likely to continue this problematic behavior. Consequences for problematic behaviors are a common behavioral intervention from this theory because they help shape behavior. It helps the individual who has problematic behaviors learn that the behaviors are unacceptable and work towards changing them.


Anger issues in sport are common and until recently have been easily masked. The current reality of constant social media attention sheds light on many underlying issues, especially those with anger or aggression symptoms as they tend to cause more harm and as a result are more readily noticed. Coaches and athletic staff have a responsibility of assisting their athletes if they are exhibiting signs or symptoms of mental health difficulties as outlined by the NCAA Mental Health Best Practice guidelines. Coaches and athletic staff have limited knowledge or training on the signs and symptoms specific to athletes that may indicate a mental health disorder. My hope for the future is that there will be better education for coaches and athletic staff on athlete specific signs and symptoms of mental health or substance use disorders. Also, the establishment of referral processes for athletes will facilitate greater athlete involvement in treatment and higher success rates, meaning improved health and well being.


In conclusion, I hope Grayson Allen improves his coping skills whether receiving services from a clinical social worker, sports psychologist, or other professional. He is an amazing athlete with great talent that shouldn't be overshadowed by his ability to keep his composure and not harm others on the court.

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