Good Sports

Like all of the other games in what would turn out to be a winless season, we fell behind quickly. The spread eventually settled at 20 points as our boys worked hard to even get off one shot.

It was a tough season. We were placed in the wrong division and just couldn’t compete with teams that were taller, faster, stronger and more fundamentally skilled in every aspect of the game. Practice though we might, success was tough to come by.

In our league, we played the same teams three times. Most coaches realized after the very first game that we were overmatched and took actions to limit the blood bath. I saw coaches pull their team aside and forbid players from running the fast break any time they were ahead by 10 or more. I saw coaches mandate that their kids walk the ball up the floor, run the play and make a minimum of five passes before they took a shot when they were up by more than 20 points. I saw coaches take the extra step of moving their big guys to the top of the zone so our smaller guys could fight their smaller guys for rebounds.

It was a delicate balancing act. The majority of the teams used our games to teach their kids different parts of the game--they never officially let up on us and they didn’t necessarily treat the game as a throwaway, but they found creative ways to be good sports.

It was an awesome display--one that I had taken for granted until the last game of the season. In that game--the first game of a single-elimination tournament--we ran into a team that already beaten us soundly, but was gearing up for a run at the championship.

They jumped on us early, pressing us full court until they were up 18-2 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter started and, if possible, they were even more aggressive. They started isolating their biggest player, having him post up and score at will against the only guy we had who could even get a hand in his face.

With 10 seconds left in the game and a 55-24 lead, they rushed the ball up the floor and hit a 3-pointer. Then they tried to steal the inbound pass so they could hit 60 points for the game.

Their kids on the bench were jumping up and down, yelling and screaming and egging on their players. Their coaches were doing the same thing.

Their parents were not. In fact, several of them apologized to our coaching staff after the game.

It was ugly, but not uncommon--and I know I’m not telling you anything you haven’t witnessed time and time again. It comes up again in this issue in Fred Engh’s column concerning Mercy Rules. I for one am against them, and would prefer coaches find creative ways to solve the problem when it occurs. But, I realize that attitude runs the risk of creating a situation where one coach or one team can take advantage of another.

As Fred says, it’s a tough call--you can’t legislate morality--but maybe a gentle reminder is worthwhile.

Till next month…

Rodney J. Auth