Saturday, May 27, 2006

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

There's been a lot of talk about the new "sportsmanship" rule implemented in the state of Connecticut. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs high school athletics, passed a new rule in April that states, if a football team wins by 50 or more points, their head coach will be suspended for the following weeks game.

Shawn Courchesne of the Hartford Courant wrote a really good article on the subject.

The new rule comes in the wake of a sportsmanship survey in which nearly one thousand Connecticut coaches, athletic directors, principals, superintendents and officials took part back in February. They overwhelmingly agreed to support sanctions for unsportsmanlike conduct.

I can see both sides of this argument.

Because of league, or district play, good teams are inevitably forced to play bad teams. As a result, the score can easily get out of hand. Even if a coach puts his second and third team players in the game, they are bound to find the endzone. What are you going to do, tell the backup not to try his hardest? No! So, in that respect, you'd be penalizing a coach because he was forced to play a bad team. You are also forcing that coach to send a bad message to his kids.

On the other hand, there are coaches out there who, unfortunately, try to run up the score. No matter the reason, that's wrong. No one gains anything positive from that. And even if you're not trying to run up the score, how big of a lead is enough? Isn't it safe to say, if you are leading by four touchdowns at halftime, the game is pretty much in hand? No? What about five touchdowns? Six? A six touchdown lead means you are leading by 42 points! Any coach with a conscience will tell you, 35 points is as big of a cushion as you need, and that's only if you are playing a good team. Do you really think a bad team who hasn't found the endzone by halftime, is really going to make a 28 to 35 point turnaround in the second half? No!

The way I see it, players and coaches who run up the score are going to run up the score whether there's a rule in place or not. Dealing with jerks is a part of life. It's the lessons the rest of us learn from them that are important. For every story I've heard about a coach who has run up the score, I've heard 10 about a coach who has gone out of his way to respect the kids on the field, regardless of what team they played for. The coaches doing the right thing are the ones we should be focusing our attention on.

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