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An acquaintance of mine happens to coach a soccer team. That's not odd; I happen to have at least a dozen such acquaintances. A couple of times this season this particular coach has caught grief for "running up the score."
Apparently, his team violated some unwritten rule about how many times it can put the ball in the net.
This phenomenon isn't limited to the game of soccer. It seems as though such finger-pointing takes place in baseball, softball, basketball and football.
I have yet to hear such accusations associated with the sports of cross country, track, wrestling, tennis or golf.
My understanding is that scoring too much shows a lack of sportsmanship.
Among the justifications for such clucking is this classic: What message do we send our kids when we subject them to such a trouncing? That is, being on the receiving end of a trouncing somehow damages out children's psyche.
Well, I was under the impression that one of the major reasons we have high school sports is to prepare youngsters for the slings and arrows that life is sure to launch their way.
Do you think that the world is going to cut these kids any slack when they are down? Neither do I.
When I remember my Army days, I do not recall being instructed in any warfare doctrine which called for "easing up" on enemy combatants. I do recall being told that the way to victory is through the use of overwhelming firepower. Continuously.
A notable quote, attributed to the Duke of Wellington says: "The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton." What the good duke meant was that preps sports prepared his leaders in such a way, particularly in regards to leadership and mettle, that the French were no match.
I strongly suspect that there was no "Mercy Rule" on the playing fields of Eton.
In the business world, with which I have more than a passing familiarity, there is no kum-ba-ya-ing, no cutting of slack. When a company is known to be experiencing financial difficulties, does its competition come to its aid? No, that competitor comes as a shark to blood in the water.
I worked for a pair of Fortune 100 companies for many years. Their goal was always to have more: market share, profits, productivity, quality, sales, information. There was never "too much" of anything, particularly when it lined the company's pockets. Any competition that got blown out of the water? Eh, who really cared?
When it comes to high school sports, we should be teaching the same lesson.
I happen to be a big fan of Brad Bradley, the head coach of Heritage's football team. From what I've deduced, his philosophy is "My guys will hang as many points on the scoreboard as they possibly can. And you should try to do the same to us. If you beat us 70-0, you've done your job and we haven't done ours."
Of course, Bradley is the guy who once (in 2002) led a team to a 70-0 win in a State championship game. (Last fall, Bradley's team was pounded 52-0 in the state title game, and the man didn't utter a peep of complaint).
There are mercy rules in place, these days, to help ameliorate blowouts. Baseball and softball games might end in five innings, and soccer can be called at the mid-way point of the second half.
Still, there seems to be a hue and cry for teams to take their foot off the gas. To which I ask, "How?"
If a very good team is crushing a very bad team, a coach has two options to slow things down. First, he can send in the second string. Well, those are the players hungering for a starting role. Do you think they're going to ease up?
Second, the coach can ask his players to ease up on the opposition. This approach has two negatives associated with it: the players aren't good enough actors to simultaneously appear to be trying while not really doing so. Additionally, the opposing team, weak though it may be, does not want to be given charity. Nine kids out of ten will take a beating over charity. They may not be talented, but they have heart and they have pride.
I'm in the Brad Bradley school of thought on this one.
Let the kids learn.