Today marked opening day in the YMCA basketball winter league. Knox has been on a team for three years with his posse and another group of kids from another local Catholic school. They have played three seasons together and were kicking the pants off of all the competition in their age level (7-9). This year the parents decided to move on up to the 10-13 level for better competition and so the boys/girl could learn to lose a little.
So practices began 10 weeks ago and today was the first game. View this:
five nine year olds line up for the tip vs five 11-13 year olds!
The tip was comical but the game was real!
Knox’s team was passing and moving the ball well but could not get it inthe basket, no big deal. The other guys were scoring at will and using their bodies to be physical. Now I know we made the move up a level for competition but there is a time when the coach has to take advantage of teachable moments. As the score hit 40-4 bad guys I was making eye contact with the opposing coach who was yelling things like" drive it" and “take it to him”. I was in disbelief!
Last year when our team took a 20 point lead the coach would insist that they dribble with their left hand, pass the ball a minimum of five times, pass it around the key and then back or some other skill building trick. The boys learned to be better players and the other teams did not feel as embarrassed and often felt they were still in the game. A win/win for any youth league, right?
So, today at half time our coach asked the ref and opposing coach to ease it up a bit and the other guy said no way!
I, on the opposite side in the crowd taking it all in. I start staring down the opposing coach and I could tell he was on to me. Our coach got called for a technical (score was 50-7) after he spoke to the ref a second time asking for them to lighten up. They wouldn’t so our coach unplugged the scoreboard resetting it to 0-0! Touche’ and a round of applause from the parents. Well that is when the T got called.
After the game I positioned myself so that the opposing coach couldn’t leave. I was polite and respectful. I congratulated the coach and then told him that I was disappointed in him not taking advantage of the opportunity to teach the four lessons of the YMCA to his team: Respect, Care, Honesty and Responsibility. I told him that I felt he was responsible to teach his boys new skills like dribble left handed etc… I also informed him that he lost the chance to create some good sportsmanship moments during the game. I told him that he needed to inform his 6 foot 13 y/o son that driving it in on my 4’6" son was nothing to really be high-fiving over.
I pointed to Knox, who was with my wife and crying, and told him that is what he achieved today. Demoralizing and breaking down a bunch of 9 and 10 year olds. Instead of bringing his group together and offering a chance for them to learn ball control, passing skills etc… he thought taking it to the little guys was needed. I told him that he was in fact the problem with youth sports today…the win at all costs mentality.
He was as happy with me as anyone getting a verbal spanking would be. I kept a smile and often gave him congrats and complimented his team. I continued to politely lay into him when Knox came to me for a supportive hug. I told Knox that his team was the better team today as far as sportsmanship and character went and I congratulated him for laying an elbow into the six footers gut causing him to leave the game. I looked at this dude from the other team and said, “…remember the name Knox…” . However you remain the problem in training league youth sports… the kill or be killed coach.
He left rather quickly when his wife came over and told me I was absolutely correct and she was embarrassed by the smack talk and the running up of the score. She told me her husband was a compassionate man but… something happens when he coaches the kids. I told her he should remove himself if he is in it only to win. The worst lesson in sports is win at all costs. Nothing comes from that except kids who feel like losers!
I love competition and all sports but there is a time for teaching and good adult leadership and a time for playing to win. Today I felt that the YMCA league was violated by a man who sat the smallest kid on his team for the entire game except the last five minutes. The Y league has been a great asset in our community. Over 1000 kids play, a great success.
However, it cannot replace"… promoting character development, good sportsmanship, and competitive success in a constructive team environment…" with " Winning at all costs" . Defeats the whole purpose of joining a YMCA league, right?