Thursday, January 15, 2009

126. Win at all costs, cost too much

Many have heard about the Texas girls high school basketball team that beat another team 100-0. For most it was not just that they won by that score, though the score says it all, but how they won-purposely running up the score by maintaining a pressure defense and shooting three-pointers until they reached the 100 point mark.

The Covenant School beat Dallas Academy, which is a very small private school of only 20 girls-eight of which play on the basketball team. They had not won a game in four years and their school specialized in those with learning disabilities. Later, recognizing the classless debacle, The Covenant School offered to forfeit the game to the Dallas Academy.

What was perhaps more disappointing after reading the story was some of the comments left on the Internet. Now I know people write stupid stuff in anonymity often just trying to incite conversation, but still, I was disturbed to see that many people defended The Covenant School in the "spirit of competition."

‘Robby383' quoted Mike Ditka, "Winners try harder...losers make excuses." ‘DefianceDefiant' said, "Welcome to the real world," in all caps. ‘Sbal" wrote, "This is nuts. The Covenant School won fair and square. You are teaching students not to take pride in their accomplishments (pride is not always a sin). You are also teaching Dallas students that if they pout enough someone will feel sorry for them and give them their way. . . .Grow up!" The ignorance continued from ‘KKSUCAT3,' "in no way shape or form should they apologize if anybody should apologize it should be the other schools coach for not having his team ready."

There was more, plenty more, as many turned this into a liberal/capitalism issue. And to be fair, there were many that argued against the unsportsmanlike behavior. Some even recognized the hypocrisy of a Christian school needlessly embarrassing a far inferior opponent. However, the unscientific poll on the website only registered a 52 to 48 percent difference in those that thought The Covenant School should not have to forfeit, because "all they did was play hard."

I certainly place a high value on playing hard, and you can include working hard and studying hard as well. I am also very competitive; someone that hates losing more than I like winning. However, I place a high value on class and integrity. And for me, it is a concerning perspective that some people, actually this country, has placed such a high value on winning-at any cost.

Last year I watched a few moments of the Little League World Series, another one of those events that has grown out of perspective. I watched in disgust as one young player stood to watch his home run against a team they were easily beating. If I had been his coach, he would be benched shortly after rounding third.

As kids get older, the game changes and players often keep each other in line. Standing to watch a home run means that you might get hit the next time up, or your teammate might get hit. Of course, most kids watch the professional players, which do manage themselves to a point (base-brawls), and think that it is cool to engage in such antics. Of course, the difference is that young kids will often just take their beating, innocent in competition, and move on. This is why coaching is so important, and why the 100-0 basketball game is a disgrace.

When I coached high school sports, I wanted my players to play hard-that is what we taught. However, we also taught respect, and for me, a lopsided game, on either side, was an opportunity to play other kids. I also knew from experience that running up the score put my players at risk-if the other team decided to make their point regarding the unsportsmanlike behavior (by intentionally hurting a player). Any good coach knows there are ways to "call off the dogs" and still work to improve your team.

Unfortunately, again due mainly to America's obsession with winning championships, we have become harden to the win-at-all-cost perspective. Many have lost the value of competition, the training, learning and skill it takes to be successful. It is more than just about the scoreboard.

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