Last week, I addressed a concern I had with certain theatrics involved in some schools’ prep sports programs, but over the course of the next seven days, I realized that is far from the biggest problem out there.
During one of my regular beats this past week, one of the players for an opposing team began to limp off of the field. I seemingly was the first to notice this, and it wasn’t until a few seconds later that I heard one of the assistant coaches approach the head coach and alert him/her to the situation. The coach — whose identity I will withhold because it has nothing to do with my point — responded, saying, “One of their players? Oh, good.”
Now, I have several problems with this, but let’s start with the basics. A person probably 20 years my senior should not have a warrior-like, throw them to the lions kind of mentality especially when it comes to high school athletes. Whether the player in question was tearing it up or not — and they weren’t — should have nothing to do with it. When a coach expresses merriment out of an opposing player’s pain, it’s a bad thing. When that player is for all intents and purposes a kid, it’s far, far worse.
These are kids on the bench and the sideline. They’re impressionable. What are the players who overheard this egregious response supposed to think? Even if they had that type of mentality to begin with, it’s at least somewhat justifiable because they’re kids and they’re in the heat of battle, but when they hear their leader, teacher and mentor reinforce this barbaric, shameful response, it sinks in to their heads as if it is appropriate. It’s far from appropriate.
Branching out into the professional sports forum, Houston Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub went down with an injury in a home game last weekend. Schaub has struggled to execute his throws recently, diminishing the hopes of fans who may have seen the Texans as a potential Super Bowl team. When Schaub went to the ground, there was a small smattering of cheers from the crowd.
While this is not acceptable either, it is far from the same thing. Schaub has been paid to produce. This is his job. When you perform below expected levels at your job, you should expect to hear about it.
None of that is an excuse to do it. It is still deplorable and wrong. The reason this is far from the same thing is that in one instance you have NFL fans — alcohol fueled, beer-muscle flexing, obnoxious fans. On the other hand you have a high school coach. This is a person whose job it is to teach first and win games second. He/she had an opening in that game to teach, and he/she failed, miserably.
Coaches that I grew up admiring would have been as appalled as I am at those words. High school sports are more fun when you win, everything is, but when you are in a situation where you have the opportunity to express a desire to win or a desire to teach, you should always opt for the latter.
Sports bring out the best of emotions and actions in a lot of people: effort, teamwork, communication, unselfishness, drive, etc. It, unfortunately, can also reveal character deficiencies in others. My hope is not only that this coach knows who he/she is and recognized his/her mistake, but that it also inspires athletes to show sportsmanship over dishonor.
You knock someone down? Help them up. A player gets hurt? Take a knee. You lose a game? Shake their hand.
Many things are okay between the lines of a competitive field that would be looked down upon otherwise, but human decency is always in-bounds.