Recently, a high school football coach in Matewan, WV ran up the score so one of his players could break the single game rushing record. Because of this he is now receiving all kinds of flak over poor sportsmanship and other coaches are saying he “trampled on the integrity of the game”. In my opinion he is getting what he deserves.
However, the part of The Washington Post article which caught my attention and got my ire up was in the first paragraph and the opposing coach’s quote.
“…football players so humiliated that they dread walking through the halls…Two of them thought about quitting last week. The rest considered starting a fight. “They want to get even,” (Coach Dave) Hunt said, “because what happened to them is so unfair.”
Boo hoo hoo. Unfair? Come on! What the coach should be saying is “Suck it up! Learn from this. Work harder, get better.” Yeah, its sucks and the other coach showed no class, but there are plenty of people out in the world who show no class. If you are so embarrassed by it then prepare better and don’t let it happen again. Unfair….sheesh….
Everything that we are doing to our kids in sports is wrong. We praise them for the wrong things. We excuse them for the wrong things. We look the other way when a “star” has off field problems which might jeopardize our winning. We misbehave ourselves as adults all in the name of competition and winning.
I am sick and tired of those people who do things to protect little Johnny’s self esteem at every turn. Whoever came up with the idea of “participation trophies” should be taken out and shot. Let’s look at why sports even exist and what their purpose should be:
1. Entertainment – Ever since the beginning of time man has used sporting events to entertain himself. From the early Greeks with the Olympics to the Roman Gladiators fighting in the Coliseum, man has flocked to see one human compete against the other. Every Sunday in the fall we flock to large stadiums or gather around our televisions to watch hulking men play football. We whoop it up and high five each other when our team scores. It helps us to relieve stress and keeps us entertained.
When young kids play sports it serves as a form of entertainment for them as well. By getting to run around on a field and for some, act out their fantasies, they are being entertained. It’s a great release for the never ending store of energy children have and for them it is play. Why do you think we say, “We are going to play a game today.”?
2. An outlet for our instincts for survival and conquest – Man is part animal and inbred into us is the instinct to survive. Thank God. Without it the human species would have died out long ago. Among the many tactics man has used to survive is conquest. By dominating his predator (the opponent) either physically or mentally, man has been able to survive over the millenniums to prosper and grow.
As Man became more civilized, conquest of other men took the form of athletic events. Again, the Greeks with the Olympics, the Romans with the Gladiators, and so on. The individual on the “battlefield” defending his turf and using his physical prowess and cunning to defeat his opponent and live to play another game.
We even have teams that represent our schools, our cities, even our countries and use the outcome of sporting events to claim superiority over our rivals. Just because your local high school football team beats the one in the next town over does that really mean you have a better high school?
3. Educational – This is where sports have gone wrong.
Character. Teamwork. Responsibility. Work Ethic. Respect. Pride. These are all words that have always been associated with sports. We drum this into the kid’s heads and we repeat it over and over again to convince them and ourselves that whatever ridiculous drill or sacrifice they are asked to make has value. And I actually believe this. I truly believe that you can find purpose in even the most mundane task, if you present it correctly.
But, this is where sports has gone awry. Instead of teaching kids how to act in the face of adversity, we have changed the rules to protect their self esteem. Instead of teaching kids that hard work and practice pays off, we now force coaches to play everybody and limit the play of the best. Unfortunately, this is as much an outcome of trying to protect Johnny’s self esteem as it is needing to curb a coach’s competitive side who is making up for his failed childhood. He has forgotten that the point of sports is to build character, etc. and that all kids should be given a chance to participate. It is not about them as a coach and living vicariously through their kids by dominating everyone and everything to compensate for their less than successful life and career as an adult.
When we are on the receiving end of a truly classless act like running up the score, we cry that it is unfair and we support the kids in wanting to fight and make excuses for the loss. We don’t teach kids to learn from their experiences. We teach them to make excuses for their experiences. “The ball was slippery” or “The ref blew the call”. Maybe so, but the reality is you didn’t catch the ball or you didn’t play hard enough so that the ref’s mistake on one call shouldn’t make a difference. Be responsible; be accountable for your actions. Learn from your mistakes. Work hard. Get better.
To the coach in Matewan – get some class. To the opposing Coach – Blow your nose, work hard and get better.