Archive for January, 2010

Does the punishment fit the crime?

Tara Schwitter is, by all accounts, a terrific HS athlete at Immaculate Heart Academy in NJ. So good that she’s being recruited by a number of D-I colleges for soccer. But when the Univ of Miami soccer coach invited Tara to participate in a 3-day soccer showcase during the Christmas break to show her stuff, Tara went to her basketball coach to ask permission.

By the way, Art Stapleton of The Record did a great job in covering this story, and also did a great job on my show.

Bear in mind that Tara is a captain of the basketball team. She also knew that the school has a strict policy: you miss a HS game or practice for a club team activity, you’re off the team. Tara knew all this, took a chance on furthering his college education, and when she returned from Florida, she was told nicely that she had played in her last HS basketball game.

To me, this is a lose-lose situation. Look, I fully appreciate the school’s hard-line policy here, but at the same time, shouldn’t they consider all the facts in this case? The problem with tough, blanket rules like this is that, invariably, a situation like this comes along and nobody wins. Tara could have simply lied to her hoops coach and told her that she was sick for those three days…or that her family had to go visit their ailing grandparents..or whatever.

Instead, she told the truth, and paid a steep price. The way I see it, the rule was put into place to prevent kids from playing on a club team and the HS varsity team at the same time during the season. But in this case, this was a once-in-a-lifetime showcase that just happened to get in the way of her basketball schedule.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to simply “punish” Tara in a different way? Maybe have her sit out a few games and then re-instate her. But to lose the rest of the season? That doesn’t sound right or fair to me.

Running Up The Score: Time to take a stand

It’s very simple…there’s really no reason at all to ever humiliate an opponent by allowing your kids to run up the score. Sure, coaches can make all the excuses they want…”How can I tell my second and third stringers not to score?”…”We really weren’t trying to score a lot of points”…and so on. But if your team is trouncing the other team, it’s incumbent upon you — the coach — to make sure the score remains reasonable.

Some HS athletic associations allow a winning team to let the clock run in a lopsided game. Or in baseball, many states have a 10-run “mercy” rule. In Connecticut HS football, if a team wins by too many points, an investigation is started by the governing HS body.

My point is this: every HS league or conference should have a rule in place that teams (read: coaches) who run up the score on opponents will be investigated before being allowed to coach in their next game. Discussions will take place with the losing coach and the refs/umps who worked the game. In other words, let’s get these coaches to pay attention to what’s going on.

In short, this is one aspect of sportsmanship we can control. So, coaches, let’s do it.

“In Your Face” Coaches: Where do we draw the line?

As evidenced by the recent firings of top college football coaches such as Mike Leach of Texas Tech, Mark Mangino at Kansas, and Jim Leavitt at the Univ of South Florida, clearly the parameters are changing.

That is, there is no more tolerance for coaches who, in order to motivate their players, have to reach into the world of physical and verbal abuse to get them to raise their game. This is to be saluted. After all, you would think that a college coach who is making millions in salary AND is supposed to be a master motivator could come up with a better way of prodding their players.

After all, coaches like John Wooden and Joe Torre and Phil Jackson don’t have to do this — so why do other coaches feel the need?

And by the way, watch for the trickle-down effect of all this. HS coaches, travel coaches, and youth coaches will all be under the microscope now for the way in which they treat the athletes on their teams. Again, as noted, this is all for the good.

Good coaches know how to get kids to play better. You can do it with the right words – -no need for verbal (or physical) abuse.