Monday, January 26, 2009

When Winning Gets You Fired

A couple of little known high schools out of Dallas have been getting an awful lot of national attention after Dallas Covenant School beat Dallas Academy 100-0 in a girls basketball game on January 13th. After what happened in the game began to generate unwanted attention for Covenant, administrators from the school issued an apology.

But coach Micah Grimes felt he had done nothing wrong. Since he refused to apologize for his role in the lopsided outcome he is now looking for a job. Much of the hubbub around the blowout revolves around the fact that Dallas Academy prides itself as place to educate young people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. Although I don't know all the facts of what happened, I have read up on the story and think some perspective is needed.

As one who played competitive athletics throughout my formative years, I'm well aware of competitive sports and the lessons learned from winning and losing. In addition I have several years of coaching under my belt. In fact, I'm currently coaching my third grade son's youth basketball team. So I understand the sports ethic that says that you don't run the score up on an obviously inferior opponent.

However, after considering the facts of this situation, I find it hard to believe that Coach Grimes deserved to lose his job over this. Although some of the details of the game appear sketchy at this point, Grimes had this to say about what happened:
"The game started like any other high school basketball game across the nation. The teams warm-up, coaches talk, the ball is tipped, and then the play begins. We started the game off with a full-court press. After 3 minutes into play, we had already reached a 25-0 lead. Like any rational thinking coach would do, I immediately stopped the full-court press, dropped into a 2-3 zone defense, and started subbing in my 3 bench players. This strategy continued for the rest of the game and allowed the Dallas Academy players to get the ball up the court for a chance to score. The second half started with a score of 59-0. Seeing that we would win by too wide of a margin, running down the clock was the only logical course of action left. Contrary to the articles, there were only a total of four 3-point baskets made; three in the first quarter, and only one in the third quarter. I continued to sub in bench players, play zone defense, and run the clock for the rest of the game. We played fair and honorably within the rules and in the presence of the parents, coaches, and athletic directors for both Covenant School and Dallas Academy.

In response to the statement posted on The Covenant School Website, I respectfully disagree with the apology, especially the notion that the Covenant School girls basketball team should feel "embarrassed" or "ashamed". We played the game as it was meant to be played and would not intentionally run up the score on any opponent. Although a wide-margin victory is never evidence of compassion, my girls played with honor and integrity and showed respect to Dallas Academy. We honor God, ourselves, and our families when we step on the court to compete. I do not wish to forfeit the game. What kind of example does it set for our children? Do we really want to punish Covenant School girls? Does forfeiting really help Dallas Academy girls? We experienced a blowout almost 4 years ago and it was painful, but it made us who we are today. I believe in the lessons that sports teach us. Competition builds character, and teaches us to value selflessness, hard work, and perseverance. As a coach, I have instilled in my girls these values. So if I lose my job over these statements, I will walk away with my integrity."
I wonder what else he was supposed to do when it became apparent that his opponent was over matched. Should he have only played with three players? Should he have called the game at halftime? I can't say that I really know the answer to those questions. But I do know that some of the media exposure that is now being given to Dallas Academy seems unjustified. I watched the team on a national news program yesterday getting interviewed as if they were some sort of heroes. Of course it is to be respected that the girls didn't quit and continued to play hard, but, then again, plenty of teams put forth a good effort only to get beaten by a large margin.

If it comes to light that there was unnecessary taunting in this game, then I would agree it should be addressed. There is no value in humiliating an inferior opponent. But should a team that practices hard and strives to win be punished for doing just that? All-too-often we seek to spare our children from disappointments or hardships in life and, unwittingly, deprive them the opportunity to be shaped through adversity.

As I mentioned, I'm coaching my son's basketball team this winter. We had our first game the other day and lost 38-8. If I had my way, I'd rather we had a closer game but I also know that it gives us something to work for. I will continue to teach our kids about sportsmanship, teamwork, faith and how to have fun through athletics. I teach them to not worry about the score as much about the effort they put forth and the improvement that they're seeing in themselves and as a team. Anytime you keep score you are going to have winners and losers. But a scoreboard doesn't necessarily indicate who the real winners and losers may be.

No comments: