Sunday, May 28, 2006

Coaching trouble

Are you afraid that your son or daughter might be scarred for life as a result of being on the wrong end of a blowout? Then move to Connecticut, where the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference will be suspending coaches of football teams that run of the score:

HARTFORD, Conn. -- High school football coaches in Connecticut will have to be good sports this fall -- or risk a suspension.

The football committee of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs high school sports, is adopting a "score management" policy that will suspend coaches whose teams win by more than 50 points.

A rout is considered an unsportsmanlike infraction and the coach of the offending team will be disqualified from coaching the next game, said Tony Mosa, assistant executive director of the Cheshire, Conn.-based conference.

"We were concerned with any coach running up the game. There's no need for it," Mosa said. "This is something that we really have been discussing for the last couple of years. There were a number of games that were played where the difference of scores were 60 points or more. It's not focused on any one particular person."


Some states, including Iowa, continuously run the game clock in the second half if a team has a 35-point lead. The Connecticut committee rejected a similar proposal because members thought it would unfairly cut into backups' playing time.
One of the things school sports teaches students is how to deal with adversity. Teaching kids that someone will step in and save them from further trouble when they are facing adversity isn't realistic.

Teaching good sportsmanship is also important, but disciplining coaches who don't teach it a certain way (or at all) isn't the answer. The message kids on the winning teams will receive isn't "we don't run up the score because it's right," it is "we don't run up the score because the rules say we can't."

I've coached for a long time (basketball, not football), and have been on both sides of some pretty bad blowouts. My philosophy had always been that our teams would play the first half straight regardless of the score, and then once I was sure the game was in hand, I would play more of our reserves, call off the press, instruct the girls not to shoot three-pointers, etc.

There was a time when I would get offended by coaches who would beat us badly and not play out the string in the same way that I would. But over time I began to realize that all I could do was coach my team, and it wasn't going to do me any good to worry about whether our opponents were treating us in a sportsmanlike fashion or not.

Further, I came to believe that a team should not alter their style just to keep scores down. A team that beat the Crusaders by 40+ points this season continued to shoot three-pointers until the final buzzer. Were they being unsportsmanlike? No. They are a run-and-shoot team which always stations four of their five players outside the arc. That is their offensive philosophy. Should they no longer play their style because they are ahead? Shouldn't the younger players or reserves have the chance to become more familiar and comfortable with the style that they will play when they become starters?

In another game this past season, we were being pressed to death and had fallen behind by 20-some points. At the end of a timeout, one of my players turned to me and said, "Well, at least they won't be pressing us anymore." I asked her why she would think that and she replied "Isn't their a rule that they can't press once they have a 20-point lead?" Apparently that was the rule when she played in the middle school league, and she just assumed it would be the same.

I told her that we didn't have any such rule, and further, that it was OK with me if they kept pressing because the more we played against the press, the better we'd become. As far as I'm concerned, that's the only responsibility I have, to keep my team working and learning, not to keep their feelings from being bruised by the score of a basketball game.

I realize that football is different. There is an element of physical domination in a football blowout that may not be there in a similar basketball event. A losing football team might get the living snot beaten out of them both figuratively and literally. But tying disciplinary action to the final score is a situation that is ripe for abuse.

What if Coach A has been blown out by Coach B year after year, hates B with a passion, and finds himself being blown out again. Would he take a safety in a 49-0 game just to stick it to the winning coach?

If a team finds themselves ahead 56-6 or so, do they take a safety to get back under 50 points? Or maybe a coach instructs his defense to let the other team score on every possession so they can keep getting the ball back.

On the other hand, there might be some coaches who would like the opportunity to take a weekend off during the season. These coaches from the San Diego area, for instance, decided to attend a "coaches clinic" in neighboring Nevada:
Allegations of improper expenditures by the Fallbrook High football booster club have been referred to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department after the Fallbrook school district found an ATM withdrawal of $164.95 at a brothel in Nevada, among other questionable transactions on a booster club debit card.

Fallbrook Union High School District Superintendent Tom Anthony said he referred the case to the sheriff's office in Fallbrook after the district conducted its own investigation. The case was referred last week to the financial crimes unit, Sheriff's Lt. Grant Burnett said.

Anthony said some transactions on the debit card were "extremely disturbing" to him and the district's board of trustees. Chief among them, he said, was the ATM withdrawal during Thanksgiving weekend last year at 48 Kit Kat Drive in Carson City, Nev., the location of the Kit Kat Guest Ranch, a brothel.

Debit card records obtained from Anthony show a withdrawal at that ATM of $164.95 at 3:21 a.m. on Nov. 26. It was categorized on the debit card account as "Coaches Expenses: Clinics."

Debit card and travel records show that then-head football coach Dennis Houlihan traveled from Los Angeles to Reno that weekend via Alaska Airlines and rented a car from Nov. 25-27 in Reno. Purchases for his air travel ($253.40) and rental car ($87.51) were on the debit records, categorized as coaches expenses.

The debit card records also show a withdrawal in Carson City at 9:45 p.m. on Nov. 25 for $282 -- hours before the withdrawal at the brothel. It also was categorized as "Coaches Expenses: Clinics."
Can you believe the ATM at the Kit Kat Guest Ranch charges $4.95 per withdrawal?

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