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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 21, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Saul? Wasn't your first comment to me: "Ron, people like you are ruining today's kids. When they enter the real world, there is no trophy or congratulations for merely trying, either you succeed or you fail. But having been coddled by people like you for the first 18 years of their life, they cry and pout entitlement to everything just for trying, even if they are a miserable failure at whatever they are doing." I can't take a swipe back? I can't be sarcastic? I have a sweet side too.
Ron Goralski May 21, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Hi Jackie! A agree. Kids need to learn to lose as well as win. That's not my issue - and I think it's gotten lost here among some of the non-sense. Most leagues have a mercy league. You are still losing. Except instead of 23-0 it's 10-0. At these ages, a loss does not have to be a miserable experience. 10-0 serves the message. 23-0 shoves it down your throat. At this point in their "careers", we want them coming back to play another year. There are a hundred other things they could decide to do - and many of them involve trouble. We want them to have fun, learn to win and lose, be good sports and good teammates, and learn the game. 70% of them will drop out before high school. Many will never learn their full potential. We are not babying them by having them lose by 10 instead of 23. I will argue this with any coach or parent out there for as long they want to. And it's the life of a child - I'd like to see conclussive evidence that any of this will make them weaker adults. It's quite the opposite and I have all the info anyone needs if they want to read more.
Ron Goralski May 21, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Oops! I meant, "I agree" and "mercy rule".
Ron Goralski May 21, 2012 at 04:30 PM
I'm going to end my participation in this debate this week by making this very simple: A group of kids getting trampled by a 23-0 score are not becoming any tougher, any more resilient, or any better prepared to enter the world as adults than if they'd gotten beaten 10-0. I have nothing more than that, and some magic feed corn. It can't melt prison walls, I can only make reindeer fly.
Andrew Ziemba May 21, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Have a great day
king of we ha May 21, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Ron lives in the world where everyone wins and every child gets a medal. That's a great life lesson for when kids get older. Hey you didn't get the job but you can sweep out the cafeteria after everyone leaves for the day. Everyone wins right Ron? Life isn't all roses and happy go-lucky. People lose and it is an important lesson. If you get beat 23-0 its the same as losing 1-0. One of the biggest mistakes of the baby boomer generation was teaching their children that everyone wins one way or another. Guess what? That isn't life. You need to learn how to lose.
Ron Goralski May 21, 2012 at 06:25 PM
http://www.bob-bigelow.com/
Ron Goralski May 21, 2012 at 06:28 PM
http://www.itsaboutthekids.com/
Ron Goralski May 21, 2012 at 06:29 PM
http://espn.go.com/espn/commentary/story/_/page/keown-110823/elite-travel-baseball-basketball-teams-make-youth-sports-industrial-complex
Ron Goralski May 21, 2012 at 06:36 PM
http://askcoachwolff.com/2011/06/03/should-youth-leaguers-receive-trophies-for-participation/
Ron Goralski May 21, 2012 at 06:43 PM
http://askcoachwolff.com/2010/01/21/running-up-the-score-time-to-take-a-stand/
Ron Goralski May 21, 2012 at 06:44 PM
http://askcoachwolff.com/2010/01/21/running-up-the-score-time-to-take-a-stand/
Ron Goralski May 21, 2012 at 06:46 PM
http://askcoachwolff.com/2010/01/21/running-up-the-score-time-to-take-a-stand/
Ron Goralski May 21, 2012 at 06:47 PM
http://askcoachwolff.com/2010/01/21/running-up-the-score-time-to-take-a-stand/
Ron Goralski May 21, 2012 at 06:48 PM
http://askcoachwolff.com/2010/01/21/running-up-the-score-time-to-take-a-stand/
Ron Goralski May 21, 2012 at 06:48 PM
http://askcoachwolff.com/2010/01/21/running-up-the-score-time-to-take-a-stand/
Foomax May 21, 2012 at 08:02 PM
in my opinion it's less about the blowout score and more about class. I've witnessed one team destroy (with most of the starters on the bench) another then sincerely engage with the kids and coaches they just beat with class and kindness after the game. Maybe, just maybe it's more insulting in such a game to hold a runner at third and not let him/her score when it could be done walking backwards...and everyone knows it - i've seen that too.
Admiral Nelson May 21, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Thanks I appreciate it Ron. Thanks also for ending this discussion civilly unlike some other people. And I'm out of college for the summer so my competitive golfing takes a break for awhile but thanks for asking.
Ron Goralski May 22, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Marty - I just read your comment. That's PRICELESS! Lol. Gets my vote for comment of the month.
Bonnie Sica May 22, 2012 at 11:35 AM
We were playing 5on5 Town Rec basketball this winter. Our team only had five players. The other team had twelve. The other coach who you may know Brian Goralski decided to full court press us from the first seconds of the game and he double teamed what he considered to be our best player from the beginning. One of the assistant coaches came over during half time and was talking to the parents. He was explaining that they were playing us so hard because we were an all Senior team playing sophmores. I was sitting right there and told him no two of our three players were sophmores. He apologized and said he did not know. Their stradegy did not change. They completely tired our team out and beat us but the whole crowd was proud of our team for playing fair and hard under these conditions. The only loser that day was Brian Goralski because parents and players on both sides came up and apologized and said how embarrased they all were by their coaches behavior.
Saul Freedman May 22, 2012 at 12:43 PM
LOL Ron you're a goddamn comedian!
Ron Goralski May 22, 2012 at 03:55 PM
One thing I DO NOT do is call people out by name in this column. I'm very careful to not even use the towns they are from. This column runs in over 20 towns. You obviously have an issue with that coach. I would suggest going through the league if you would like it to be addressed. If you are somehow implying that by having the same last name, I'm either responsible for his actions or he needs to feed into my philosophy, you are mistaken. Now if it was my own brother that you had an issue with, I’d have to pin him to the floor and let my spit drip on his face until he said “UNCLE”. But congratulations for being the first person in all of these months to call out a coach by name. I’m confident others will continue to resist temptation and exercise good judgment.
Sas May 22, 2012 at 04:29 PM
After reading through everyone of these comments and attacts, I still do not hear what the solution to this problem. If the score is 15-0, in a single scoring system game, what does the winning team coach do that is best for both sides?
Andrew Ziemba May 22, 2012 at 04:50 PM
The winning team shakes the hands of the losing team. Where's the problem? The winning team's coach tells his team good job. The losing team's coach tells them that they fought hard and he is proud of them, but they were up against a better opponent so they should not let themselves feel down and then talk about the positives and what to work on.
Sas May 22, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Andrew.....while the game is going on! What is the coaches call? Play keep away, walk off the field, let the other team score?????? How does the coach keep from running up the score? I agree with you at the end of the game but I am talking about during.
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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