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Why Running Up the Score Is a Classless Thing To Do

A lacrosse tournament offers up a lesson in restraint.

OK, I agree that stiffer competition can make a team better in the long run. I get that. It’s why the younger brothers and sisters of siblings involved in sports often show advanced skills early on.

So there we were on a Saturday afternoon at a lacrosse tournament with teams from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York.

I got the feeling that the team from Long Island wasn’t making the trip to lose to a team made up of mostly football players and former baseball players (as one mom perfectly stated).

I’ll make a crazy assumption that the team from LI spends the entire calendar year playing together as a unit. They could have been blindfolded and still have known where their teammates were. It was fun to watch — at first.  

With each game being only 20 to 30 minutes long, chances were good that it wouldn’t get too out of control. Well, chances are your chances are awfully good … for a blowout!

Midpoint of the game: It was either 10 or 12 to nothing. Some accounts of the game reported a final score of 23-0. That’s about one goal for every minute of actual playing time. That’s equivalent to the older sibling taking the younger one and whipping golf balls at him from 10 feet away with nothing more than a Slurpee cup for protection.

That’s not even a close game in football! That’s not fun! And don’t say, “Well your team should have stopped them from scoring.” They couldn’t!

Even their goalie decided that he’d try to score late in the game. He bolted from his little protected area and made it more than halfway down the field before being separated from the ball. It was a big joke to their coaches and fans. It was the first time that I actually wanted to see a kid get knocked into next week by one of our players.

In a recent article, Craig Bogar, EdD, who is head of Student Services for the United States Sports Academy wrote, “Coaches who allow their teams to run up the score usually rationalize their wins by saying that they can’t keep their players from scoring, especially when non-starters are playing. This rationalization demonstrates that these coaches lack not only character but the ability to use the experience as a teaching lesson. Coaches who run up the score may think that their victories will be perceived by the public as great coaching feats, but in reality the opposite is true. Coaches who do this, and administrators who allow coaches to run up the score, are only remembered as being classless and self-serving.”

Toward the end of the game I was squirming in my chair. I just wanted to yell something across the field, but like an idiot, I was wearing my Patch hat (it kind of matched my shorts).

Well … with about 30 seconds to go and their team still playing as though the fate of the Long Island Iced Tea depended on whether they could reach 25, I half-yelled, “Can you show a little class, please?” At least it was in the form of a question.

The game ended and I waited for players on both teams to exit ahead of the coaches. In a very calm and friendly voice I asked if it would have been possible to show a little more class after discovering that they were matched up against an obviously inferior opponent. Like perhaps after the score was 10, 15, or 20 to nothing.

Both coaches looked rather surprised that I would insinuate that they had just stepped on our players' heads and mashed them into the ground. They justified it by saying that their scorers were passing to their non-scorers so they could score at the end of the game.

Aww … how sweet. Perhaps if I had pushed my father out there in his wheelchair they would have passed the ball to him so he could have scored as well.

One coach said, “Even your coaches thanked us for a good game.”

HELLO? That’s called CLASS!

Connecticut Valley Youth Lacrosse serves Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. In a memo posted on May 16, 2012, Paul Jones, CVYL Sportsmanship Chair, writes, “Teams at the Junior and Senior levels should be adhering to the ‘10-goal rule.’ If one team beats another team by more than 10 goals, it is NOT sportsmanlike to report a different score, just for the sake of appearing to have met the 10 goal rule, and is in fact, quite the opposite. Teams who are clearly winning and in control of a game should make every effort to not embarrass their opponents by running up the score."

I’m not sure what, if any, of the association’s scoring rules where in effect for this non-league event. It can’t be easy bringing in teams from other organizations for a one-day tourney. Besides, a real youth coach will do a bit of self-regulating on his own.

So as the parent of a player, was I wrong to approach the coaches after the game? Probably. But I will also tell you that I am the first one to congratulate an opposing coach for showing good sportsmanship after a game. In this case I just needed to know why. So if that was what I was seeking, I left with nothing.

Our final game was played against the other winless team in our division. We knew they’d been through the same type of day. We cheered after our goals but stopped way short of hysteria.

Yes, I did raise my arms up and yell when The Boy scored his first goal ever. Defensive players hardly get to shoot. But even then I felt a tinge of guilt. I didn’t properly congratulate him until we met in the parking lot and I body-slammed him into Grandpa’s van.

Looking back, I could scream for not giving Gramps his opportunity to score when I had the chance.

Ron Goralski May 22, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Each sport, each league is different. We can take up another entire column on the subject. But I have seen it done and it's not reinventing the wheel.
Ron Goralski May 22, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Education is knowledge. And while the term "expert" is tossed around to the point of losing its prominence, I cannot stress enough the importance of reading what Bob Bigelow suggests in his book, “Just Let the Kids Play”. And even if you only agree with 50% of what’s written, you will come away with a new attitude regarding what is in the best interest of our children. Ten bucks and few days is all it takes. I haven’t had a single person regret reading it yet.
Ron Goralski May 24, 2012 at 02:24 PM
More on the subject of using real names in tomorrow's column.
Ron Goralski September 11, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Hi Friends, I'm working on a column regarding one's youth sports legacy. Those who have passed away and left behind something for others to remember them by. Give me the person who comes to mind in your town and what their contribution was. Please send it to ron.goralski@snet.net. Put LEGACY as the title of the email please. Be sure to list your town. Thanks!
Al Rosenberg October 17, 2012 at 10:16 PM
I was just made aware of this comment.... First Brian is no the head coach of this team.... Al Rosenberg is the head coach of this team and the assistant director of the league...a volunteer who has been doing this for over twenty years, most of which has not included any of his own children. He was the one who always visits parents between all games and treats every player on every team with the same consideration and repsect he gives his own...his reputation is based on that...to say that many of the comments above are taken out of context is easy - for that person is me, Al Rosenberg, coach of the Nets If this was written my concerns is whether this was an attack on me, my team, town basketball or more of a politically driven statement? Ask any coach, any player about the integrity of what I do and represent and these statements become a non issue - I just wish I saw or heard about this sooner so I could have handled this nonsense much, much earlier

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