They Start Learning at an Early Age

Surely you have heard the story out of Texas regarding the high school girl’s basketball team that was blown out 100-0 a week and a half ago. This is not the first time that something like this has happened, and it unfortunately will not be the last. Every time it happens, it causes a stir among the sports industry, and sometimes even the national news. This particular instance, in which Dallas Academy was defeated by The Covenant School, has garnered extra attention, possibly because Dallas Academy is a high school of just 20 girls, most of which have some sort of learning disability.

Here is the back story: Dallas Academy has not won a girls basketball game in 4 years. Most of the girls that make up the varsity team have never played basketball before attending the school. But they are not too bothered by it. In an interview on Good Morning America Saturday, several of the players echoed the sentiment that they were a little discouraged, but they still had fun, and hoped they could learn from the situation. There are professional athletes who could stand to heed that advice!

The Covenant School (ironically, a Christian School, supposed to instill Christian values into its students) took a 59-0 lead into half-time. I can not imagine what the Covenant coach said at half-time, because his team came back out in the second half, and continued to play as if the game was close. Parents and other fans said that the Covenant team continued to play the full court press (usually reserved for close games where you need to force a quick turnover), and hustle down the floor on offense and launch 3-pointers. The blame here has got to fall to the coach, and possibly even the parents of the Covenant players. I can not place too much blame on the Covenant players themselves, as they are likely doing what they were coached to do. However, some of them should be old enough to at least recognize that what was going on was not right. But since it is unknown if any of them questioned their coach, or asked if maybe they should stop playing to run up the score, it isn’t fair for me to place the blame there.

The Covenant coach, however, has no excuse. As a teacher or coach, you are supposed to do more than teach a class or execute a gameplan; you are supposed to be instilling positive character traits into the students you are in charge of. In addition, at a Christian school, faculty and staff are often charged with the additional task of aiding and nurturing the spiritual development of students. No matter your views on Christianity or any other religion, you can not argue that it is not very moral to run up the score and humiliate an obviously overmatched opponent. To their credit, Covenant School did say just that in the apology they issued; unfortunately, the apology didn’t come until nine days after the game, conveniently the day after the story made national headlines. Is it very moral to only apologize and admit your wrong-doing when your back is up against the wall?

Sportsmanship is not something that should be taken lightly. It is often one of the first introductions to the world of ethics that children have. In little league, the mercy rule, which ends an inning after too many runs are scored, teaches that there is a line between being better at something and being arrogant about it. Sometimes, you learn that it is better to sacrifice to do something positive for someone else, like the story of the high school coach and his team giving up a shutout so that a player from the opposing team, who had a developmental disability but had been to every practice and every game, could score a touchdown in the final game of his senior season. The coach of this player had merely wanted to get his player into the game, but the opposing coach made sure his players allowed him to not only carry the ball, but carry it into the end zone.

And in a world where professional athletes and coaches often throw sportsmanship to the wind, like Bill Belichick and the Patriots continuing to throw deep passes while up big in the fourth quarter of games in 2007, and big-name college football programs constantly running up the score on “cupcake” opponents that were picked for essentially just that reason (because margin of victory plays a part in BCS computations), it is still a surprise when high schools do it, and when parents of the winning school continue to cheer wildly, as witnesses say Covenant parents did. What are these parents teaching their children? It is one thing to beat your opponent soundly, and in life it is one thing to succeed. But it is something else to tear others down to do it.. In basketball, play zone defense and work on ball movement; in football, run the ball and throw short passes, and then play prevent defense; in baseball, stop stealing and running hit & runs. If you continue to score, then so be it – the defense is supposed to stop the offense, and the pitchers are supposed to get batters out. In life, refuse to cheat on your test, and refuse to lie your way to the top. Childhood introduces these important lessons in relatively harmless circumstances, but the circumstances increase in importance and consequence as we move forward in life.

Again, there is a fine line between being better at something and being arrogant about it. And everyone can agree that arrogance is not a quality anyone should be proud of.

Image by: Andrew Beierle, SXC

2 thoughts on “They Start Learning at an Early Age

  1. An update on this story: Covenant School coach Micah Grimes was fired Sunday after sending an email to a local Dallas newspaper stating he did not agree with his school’s apology, and felt that he does not need to apologize “for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.” The school will not comment on whether the firing had anything to do with Grimes’ email.

    Grimes’ full statement: “We played the game as it was meant to be played. My values and my beliefs would not allow me to run up the score on any opponent, and it will not allow me to apologize for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.” I understand if the Covenant team stopped playing a full court press, and maybe put in some reserve players, and still kept scoring. But one report I read included an eyewitness account saying that the game became a lay-up drill, with Covenant players waiting to steal the inbound pass, and drive to the basket. That is not how the game is meant to be played.

    I played sports growing up, and have been on both sides of blowouts. There is something to be said for kids learning how to deal with disappointment and defeat – because we all face these two things throughout our lives. But there is also something to be said for teaching kids about respect and sportsmanship. I think Covenant was right to fire their coach – not necessarily just because of this instance, but because if he honestly believes what he said in his email, he is not someone I would want teaching and instilling any sort of values in my kids.

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