An article on the coddling of athletes {"Sporting Life Weaves Warm Cocoon," Sports, Dec. 28} brings to mind the problems experienced by the men's U.S. Ski Team. These athletes expect first-class treatment before they can give a first-class performance. They see how other sports stars benefit materially, and they want a piece of it before they have actually earned the status to deserve such treatment.

We do not expect our sports stars to be perfect, nor do we demand much other than excellence in their field. However, we hope that the coddling they receive does not spoil them into thinking that they are gods, that they are above others and that they do not have to pay parking tickets, stand in line and be nice to people.

As a former sportswriter and as a friend of some sports superstars, I know that some of these athletes can be modest, poised and "do the right thing" even when they do travel first class and have been hosted by shahs and presidents. Sadly, the environment in which they circulate prevents them many times from being modest because of peer pressure, and it delays their development of a secure personality. Take, for example, the athlete in the story who could not change an airline ticket or rent a car.

It is not difficult to discipline an athlete in certain codes of conduct, particularly if the discipline comes when the athlete is young and especially if the reward is not material. It should be gratifying enough that the athlete's legacy will be sports excellence and not obnoxious behavior. There are many sports heroes in whose company they could be included, such as Jean-Claude Killy, Steve Cauthen, Wayne Gretzky and Chris Evert. That should be reward enough.

DELIA I. SOTO Chevy Chase