I recently stumbled upon an article sharing the "incredible" story of a 128-9 blowout in high school basketball.
My first thought?
Shame on the winning coach.
There is no glory in being a jerk.
I'm sorry to be so harsh. I seldom am on my blog. But for a team to win a game by that margin means that the winning coach was a jerk. And he allowed his players to be jerks by his leadership and example.
Let me explain...
I was on a high school basketball team that won most of its games. We made it to two State Championships. I don't remember our final record, but we usually finished the season only losing a handful of games.
While I remember some big moments like beating our arch rivals in a four overtime game (which I tied in the second overtime on a last second lay-up) and scoring my 2,000th point on the night my father (our coach) etched his 200th win, what I remember more was the fact that we never won a game like the one detailed in this article.
And when I thought about why I realized that the answer was simple.
It was because my Dad wouldn't let us.
You see, we could have. We could have made local or state news because we played a team and they didn't score a single point.
Instead, when we played a team like the one that scored 9 points in the aforementioned article and the score quickly grew lopsided, my Dad called a time-out. He looked down at us from his the top of 6'8" frame and said, "Now listen here ladies. I want you to let the other team shoot a basket every time we go down the floor. If they miss it, then you fight for the rebound. But you let them have that first shot."
He was not going to allow anyone to be humiliated. Especially not the other team.
If we had a game easily in hand, my Dad would take me out as soon as I had enough points to stay atop the county leader board for points per game. I averaged somewhere around 25 points per game my entire varsity career which was always the top girls' average in Broward County.
But that meant I often sat out a whole quarter. Sometimes I sat out half the game because I had already scored enough points to keep my average, and my Dad didn't want to embarrass the other team.
We only pressed when we needed to, and if a game was obviously going to go in our favor, every one on our team would play -- even the girls who weren't very good.
An example of my Dad's emphasis on what was really important?
We lost the State Championship Game 100-45. The other team was outstanding and probably could have won the Championship in a higher classification. But my Dad still made sure the girls who weren't very good got to play in the State Championship game because he knew it was important to them and would be something they cherished.
He received a lot of flack for this decision. People said that he let our team be embarrassed.
People who said that forgot about the big picture.
Another example of my father's sportsmanship surrounded the school's scoring record. My high school's scoring record for points in a game was 51 points. My Dad knew I was capable of breaking this record. So on a day that I was especially "on" and it was quickly apparent that the record was easily within reach, he kept me in and let me break the record.
But not before he talked to the opposing coach and let that coach know what he was going to do. He explained that he wanted to let me break the record and asked for the coach's permission.
The other coach agreed. The moment I scored 52, I sat down. Immediately done for the night.
I cannot tell you the times my Father and I would watch a game where one team was creaming the other. He'd get so angry when he'd see the winning coach continue to play his best players ...continue to press full-court ... continue to deny the ball without mercy.
Without my Dad ever explaining any of this to me, I watched him live it. And to be quite honest, I don't think I understood it then.
But after playing Division I basketball for Western Kentucky University, I went on to coach myself. And suddenly, I understood.
My father had ... class.
He demonstrated ... sportsmanship.
By not winning a game 128-9.
He realized that the point of a sport is to teach a young boy or girl about life. To instill in them a good work ethic. To allow them to have fun. To help them gain confidence. To foster an active lifestyle. To instill confidence.
And so when I see an article plastered across the news detailing how badly a team got beat, I cringe. As I am sure my Father does.
It's bad sportsmanship.
And all I can think of is that I wish the winning coach had had the opportunity to play for a coach like my Dad -- someone who taught me so much simply by being kind.
Both on and off the court.
My father with our State Runner-Up Team 1993-1994
To read my post on my basketball "history" click here.