Warning: This posting is not necessarily running related. My son started playing Lacrosse this spring. He had actually started playing last year, but only through a bootcamp training and not by playing in a league. This year he joined a competitive team and he has a lot of fun (most of the time). It is a demanding sport and there is certainly some roughness to be expected, but rules apply and are enforced by mostly experienced referees. The league has some competitive character compared to some less competitive leagues that are available in our area as well. As an example, in our league teams can qualify for play-off games and ultimately a championship game – other leagues do not offer this type of competition.
While this specific league has the more competitive component, it does not mean playing and winning by all means. There are rules and as mentioned they are enforced by experienced referees at each game. Sure, there will be some foul plays, but that is just the nature of a competitive sport and in general the games are played fair by most teams. So, with that being said a not so nice situation developed and as a result I can say that cheating will not pay off in the long run and that this is a great example why.
So, a few weeks ago we had a Saturday afternoon game and as always the coach requested that the players arrive 45 minutes early for warm-up practice. The two teams found individual spots at the sports complex where the game was being held. Two other teams were still playing and so the new-arriving teams (including my son’s team) did their warm-up practice a bit away from the field. My wife and I sat down near the field to watch the other game, but to also see our team’s warm-up practice in the close distance. For whatever reason the other team suddenly moved away from their warm-up spot and came over to where we were and settled down maybe just 10-20 yards away. Their coach started the pre-game pep talk and he spoke very loud so that we could hear the entire speech.
In regards to what follows, keep in mind that we were at that spot BEFORE the other team decided to move to that location close to us. We did not make efforts to spy on them. So, the coach started his pep talk and pretty much instructed his players to foul and to be very physical – especially when it came to preventing a player from our team to shoot the ball at the goal. He definitely said to foul and to push hard and to be very physical and depending on how the referees would respond to this tactic they should continue to do so unless he would tell them (his team) to stop. My wife and I looked at each other and could not believe what this guy was telling his team. Now, don’t get me wrong – I am Ok with playing physical and to be aggressive within reason, but in general physical play needs to be within the limits of the rules and purposely doing foul play is not part of that. What really ticked me off is what kind of message this coach was sending to his players. These are 8-9 year old kids and they are being told that “cheating” (aka foul play) is Ok to win a game. What kids learn at this age translates into their behavior down the road when they grow up and if you teach them the wrong values you can imagine what that looks like. A coach of a sports team should lead and provide guidance and he/she also needs to teach values and respect. This coach did the complete opposite of that.
After hearing this unexpected pep talk, my wife and a friend of ours (whose son plays on the same team as my son) talked about this before the game and when the game started we kept a close eye on the different situations and sure enough that coach’s plan was executed as mandated. A lot of unnecessary pushing and foul play was going on and to add insult to injury the refs did not do a good enough job to get it under control. The other team took a one to zero lead early, but then something amazing happened. Our team took a time-out and our coach made some tactical changes and sure enough we scored and made the score even. The game went on with a lot of pushing and foul play coming from the other team and the score went up to two: two, but then our team was able to build up a comfortable lead by out-playing the other team and in the end we won the game by 7:4 (or something like that). We were relieved that the game was over and none of our players was hurt. We were also very happy that the other coach’s strategy did not pay off and they got what they deserved.
Hold on – the story is not over yet. Both teams made it into the play-offs and sure enough our game from last night was against the same team. Our coach was already alarmed and he was actually expelled from the game because of things getting heated up during the game when the same kind of plays were made. He pointed out the rough plays to the refs, but that backfired and at one point they had enough and send him into the stands away from the field. The other team took a two to nothing lead and it was a tough game. However, our team pulled it all together and in the end we won 6:4. Again, the other coach’s strategy did not pay off and his team was eliminated from the play-offs.
I am happy that my son’s team won and that we won again this team. I felt sorry for those kids, because they fought hard and put a lot of effort in. I also felt sorry for them because of their coach and that they did not really have a choice. In that age you do not necessarily question authority as much as do you it later in life.
So, this whole thing irked me as you can see. I see this too many times in life where people are trying to take shortcuts to get ahead and in most cases these shortcuts simply don’t work. If you want to reach a goal you have to work hard for it. There is a time for shortcuts, but using shortcuts should not be your main way of doing things because it will catch up with you. In this case if the coach would have used the same effort he put in to “teach foul play and cheating the system” and would have poured that effort into better training methods – I am sure they would have won against us both times. The kids on that team did not play bad and they worked really hard, but if you work hard on the wrong things how far will you get?! The coach should be a role model for the right reasons, but in this case I think he used what “he knows best” and tought it to his team. Imagine you go through life like this – how far do you think you can get?