Sunday, January 18, 2015

Why Running Up The Score Is Wrong. Always.

You might have heard about the California high school game where one girls basketball team beat the other 161-2. I don’t know all the details of this contest, but the coach was wrong directing his team to win by such a ridiculous margin. This subject is near-and-dear to me because I played basketball competitively from fourth grade through college and have coached youth athletics for the past 20 years. I’ve been on both sides of several lopsided games during that timeframe and have seen the harm caused by running up the score.

Contrary to popular belief, these annihilations don’t help the winning team learn competitiveness. I’ve seen that it only teaches them bad habits and arrogance. Also contrary to popular belief, winning and playing to your full potential are only part of what kids can learn through athletics. Sports are also an opportunity to develop attributes like sportsmanship, compassion, and encouragement.

I recall years ago a high school girls soccer team in Erie that was dominant and twice a year had to play a team in their league that couldn’t compete with them. So the coach of the excellent team proposed to the coach of the other team they play for a half then combine teams for the second half. That way all the girls learned sportsmanship and compassion, and the losing team was encouraged playing with (not against) more skilled players.

When coaches don’t show compassion to their opponent and run up the score, they can really damage the other kids. The 161-2 score could have caused a girl on the other team to quit the team to avoid another public humiliation. Or it could have caused someone to tell her she’s no good and should quit.

Sports mirrors life. When we are in a situation where our actions may humiliate someone, we should change our actions. When we have the opportunity to show someone compassion, we should show compassion.

Earlier this season, the Hiram women’s basketball team gave up a competitive advantage by moving its season opener up a few weeks and giving up a home game – and an uncontested layup to start the game – to show compassion to an ill opponent. (See story and video here.)

What was the final score of that game? It doesn’t matter. We need to use athletics to lift kids up, not humiliate them. Always.


  1. Dis-agree
    What everyone gets a participation trophy?
    Even when you use your weakest players, they are trying to show the coach they deserve to move up.
    Why did the loosing coach sched a strong team? ...Same league... Change leagues.
    Kids also need to live with disappointment and overcome.
    A reason to grow and get better.
    Youth sports are a preparation for life. I don't believe bec you show up and are loosing, someone should step in
    ( the gvt ) and change the rules in your favor. There will be challenges in life.
    If the USA cried "not fair' after Pearl Harbor and asked for rule changes Hawaii and half the west coast would be speaking Japaneese & London... German.
    I'm of the old school ( born during WW2 ) and believe in self reliance and responsibility.
    If my team isn't good, I, we improve not ask for rule changes.
    I really could go on but I've taken enough space for now.

    1. Maybe I'm misreading what you're saying ... but are you actually comparing a high school girls basketball game to Pearl Harbor where 2,403 Americans were killed?

    2. It's about sportsmanship, not participation trophies. It's the same reason Coach Reilly doesn't have Girbran Smith launching three pointers with 20 seconds left and Gannon leading by 17. It's the same reason some people think Urban Meyer is a schmuck for piling a meaningless touchdown on Oregon in the closing moments of the Championship Game rout.

    3. It's not the fact that the score was 161-2; it was the fact that the coach kept up the relentless pressure to win by 159 points. He may have played the subs and played 'normally" and still won by 90. It was probably that much of a mismatch.

      Personally, I don't think that Urban Meyer was out of line scoring the supposedly meaningless TD last Monday. He was up by two scores with one minute to go and Oregon still held two time outs. They had enough TOs to get to fourth down. They could block the FG, return it for a TD and then recover an on-side kick. Very remote indeed, but the probability certainly is greater than 0.00%. Stranger things have happened (See "Packers, Green Bay). It's not like they were up 38-0 and trying to humiliate their opponent. (And I'm not a tOSU fan or anything).

    4. I was at the scorers table 21 years ago sitting three seats from then women's coach Doug Zimmerman as his Lady Knights (who would go onto win all of seven games that season) beat Hilbert 117-18. And I can tell you that there was zero attempt to embarrass the Hilbert team. The game was played two days later than scheduled because of a snowstorm. Hilbert brought only six players (two of their better players did not make the trip due to an exam).

      When they arrived, Gannon gave them the opportunity to cancel the game because they were so undermanned. Hilbert said no, they wanted to play. As play went on, it was obvious that it was even worse of a mismatch than anyone anticipated. I remember Zimmerman asking assistant coach Mike Bari and SID Bob Shreve what in the world he should do in order to keep the score from getting completely out of control. He was beside himself. The starters played only 10-15 minutes. Zimmerman wound up giving the majority of time to players who he felt needed a confidence boost. (And the last player off the bench was still scoreless on 0/7 shooting ... that's hard to do). Gannon played base offense and base defense.

      By the way, Hilbert was given the option to play running clock in the second half and they declined.

      The moral of all of this is that it's not just the final score, but how you go about getting there. It would have been humiliating to Hilbert if Gannon to dribble the ball the entire length of the 30 second clock and take a shot clock violation every possession.

      That was the last Gannon-Hilbert women's game ever.

  2. Released by Gannon this afternoon:

    Wednesday's Gannon-California (Pa.) Basketball Doubleheader Postponed to Thursday Night

    ERIE, Pa. - Due to the tragic death of senior California (Pa.) women's basketball student-athlete Shanice Clark, California (Pa.) and Gannon University officials have announced that the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) basketball doubleheader between the two schools scheduled for Wednesday, January 21 at the Hammermill Center has been postponed.

    The doubleheader will be pushed back one day to Thursday, January 22. Start times will remain the same with the women's game beginning the doubleheader at 5:30 p.m., followed by the men's contest at 7:30 p.m.

  3. GU Fanman: That coach had his team full court press the first half. The half time score was 140 to 1. Now really giving a life lesson . IN WHAT?

  4. I agree with FanMans intended point, just not the way he poorly explained it and worded it. I also agree with you, Jim. You get nothing out of running up a score as ridiculously as that team did. Especially in HS. Even if you win a state championship, you get nothing from it in the long run (I.e- you're not going to make it pro because you 'scored 48 points in the Ohio 5A 2007 championship game'. - random state, division and point total. Nothing realistic that I know of).

    A few years ago a local HS football team won a game 91-14. I saw the score and thought "really? What an $#@*%?!+&$% that coach is". Then I read the box score and the game write up - in which the coach of the losing team said "it may have been the most respectable game I've ever been a part of" - I'm thinking now that the coach was interviewed the following morning after he drowned his sorrows at the local watering hole. Not so. He continued "They could have easily score near 200 points if they had wanted to. They had the ability and the opportunity. They didn't. Their coaching staff kept it as close as they could without telling the team to quit trying. I'd rather lose by 100 than by 50 to a team that embarrassed us more by just flat out not trying for the majority of the game." I was still confused reading this - what coach could possibly feel this way? Then I saw box score. The winning teams FRESHMAN TEAM QUARTERBACK (who per PIAA rules was not permitted to participate in a Varsity event, but the winning coach consulted with the losing coach and referees and all agreed there would be no protest/consequence for doing it) was the 5th QB used and was 9-11 with 2 TDs. He threw no long bombs for easy scores; all passes were short 4-5 yard passes in which his FRESHMAN receivers (same PIAA rules as QB) would run straight down the sideline and as soon as a defender came near they ran out-of-bounds (running clock in effect so it didn't stop). These receivers could have tried to make moves to get around defenders or even tried to run them over for the score; they didn't. They avoided contact and any possible injury by just stepping out. No player, at any position, had more than 2 TDs and only 3 players did (the senior starting QB, senior starting RB and the freshman QB; the first two scored their TDs in the first quarter, with one TD being a pass from QB to RB). Every rostered player played (and even some that weren't) and players even played positions they had never played before (Senior safety attempted a 19 yard FG for his first attempt ever.. He missed it - horribly - but got high fives from his teammates as well as some opposing players as he walked off the field and went to the kid who normally kicked and said "I will never pick on a kicker again. That was the hardest thing I've ever tried to do!"

    This game was also senior night for the winning team and all seniors played and none played more than 7 minutes (including all the starters playing their last home game). The score of this game was unavoidable without the winning team just not trying and embarrassing the losing team even more. The winning coaches did this right - they exhausted all options and coached respectably. (No this is not from memory, I have the article still from ETN).

    So in this case the running up of the score was "okay", but mainly because they didn't do so. Like the losing coach said, they easily could have... They didn't though.

  5. Good point, Corey. The bottom line is that you can't just look at the score and assume that the coach ran up or did not run up the score. You have to look at the way that it was accomplished.


  6. Moronic coach should have called the game a scrimmage, and then, had a pizza party afterwards. Any of us who has ever coached, be it high school, college, grade school, or, at the rec level, could have come up with a more equitable, positive outcome.

    I nearly choked on my coffee this morning at the counter reading the weekly CoSIDA Atlantic region poll. Let me get this straight: We are 4-2 against the top 9 teams......with a 6 point loss against the #2 team, and, a 2 point loss versus the #3 team. We have defeated the #5, #6, #7,and, #9 teams........and we are NOT in the top 10?????

    Huh???? Was my coffee spiked???? Am I missing something?????

    1. I'm not putting too much into these regional polls. I am hoping these aren't the "official" regional polls (i.e. - the people who will actually vote when it comes time for tourney), because they have been some of the worst polls since the start. They had Mercyhurst and Edinboro both in the top 10 (and Gannon not even listed) early on and Hurst/Boro had nothing special going on.

    2. These are not official polls and will have no bearing on the NCAA selections. They are for entertainment/frustration purposes only.

    3. I agree 453. Who votes in this poll and have they even seen Gannon play? And whatever happened to strength of schedule being a factor in these polls????

    This is a more accurate ranking than the media. Performance indicators, and over the past years this is the most accurate ranking you'll get other than the official regional rankings. Gu can't lose to teams like upj. This cal game is huge, and both cal teams will be playing for a lot more than just a win.


    1. Thanks, guys.......At least it wasn't the coffee, then. Otherwise, breakfast was fine!

    2. According to your d2messageboard ranking, we are #9, probably deserved. Can't lose to teams like Millersville and UPJ. And with road games against Cal, Slippery Rock, and IUP looming, our margin for error has shrunk. We will likely need one or two big road wins in order to have a shot at an at-large bid.

    3. True, Golden.

      Methinks the playoffs begin tomorrow night. I consider Cal a very talented, dangerous team. I really hope for a nice crowd tomorrow night.

    4. Won't help with McDowell-Prep on the same night. I cannot make it on Thursday due to a prior commitment

  8. The NCAA official poll comes out for the last three weeks of the season.

  9. Our Golden Knights were mentioned again in Norman Chad's nationally-syndicated sports column: