31 January 2011

Mercy Rules Are Stupid

I was reading about that one Coach McGill whose team won by over a 100 points in some girl's basketball game. I was shocked by the spread in points, but even more shocked by the scorn that he'd received. What the hell was that all about? Because he didn't do all he could to make sure his team scored less points than they did now he's some kind of bad guy?

So, did his team do too well, or did the other team simply not try as hard as they could have? Where's the motivation in getting kids to step up and perform if they know that the other team may beat them, but not by that much? Okay, so you lost, but they only beat you by 20 points rather than 100. That's our mentality?

"Too many people in the world right now allow the youth to not be as good as they can be, allow them to be lazy," said McGill. "Here, I'm giving them an opportunity to live up to the best of their abilities and be proud of what they're able to accomplish. If that's what I'm being blamed for, then OK, I accept it."

It would be nice if more coaches approached sports with this philosophy. Why isn't it okay to be the best, play your best at all cost? Isn't that what the spirit of competition is all about? Imagine yourself in a singing competition and the first person up really sucked. Are you going to go onto that stage and downplay your talent just so that your points aren't too far above the untalented? Of course not! That's just asinine. I wouldn't do it, and I certainly wouldn't ask my daughter to either.

So Coach McGill had a small team, talented but small. Was he supposed to have his team toss the basketball back and forth, keep the ball away from the other team and let the time elapse rather than continue to score? That's worse. If you don't want to get humiliated, play your best and hope you don't get pummelled by a better team...or better yet, don't play sports! Not everyone is cut out for it, but if you want to play, I think you should strive to be better than you are, not worse so that you don't hurt other people's feelings.

According to Cameron Smith, "That commitment to excellence comes at a cost. In this case, it was the ego of teenage girls that was affected by the effective implementation of McGill's personal philosophy. Given that West Ridge is a school for at-risk youth, those egos in question may be even more fragile than most."

Really? So we care about egos of at-risk young girls, and so the answer is to not play hard to win...we should downplay our abilities so that they never realize how bad they really are or how good the other team really is? We are not supposed to be stroking the egos of our youth or coddling them, we are supposed to be building confidence and promoting teamwork. You do that by making them strive as a team and when they are defeated as a team, they will learn how much work they must accomplish to compete next time. You don't accomplish that by asking your children not to do their best in certain conditions, like when the other team is "really" losing.

Give them a chance to catch up? And if they are "at-risk" and their egos are more "fragile" cut them even more slack because we don't want them to be upset. Really? How about teach them the spirit of competition, which isn't about winning or losing as much as it is about learning to cope with the agony of defeat as well as learning to humbly accept the thrill of victory.

Coaches and teachers should do their best and make our youth better by teaching them the skills they need to play better. Don't rely on these stupid mercy rules to preserve the youth egos. Children are resilient, they will learn and bounce back. Seriously, I think these rules are more in place to help repair egos of the coaching staff.

I'm reminded of The Breakfast Club when Andrew mocks his father, "Andrew! You've got to be number one! I won't tolerate any losers in this family! Your intensity is for shit! Win! Win! Win!" I'm not saying that we should push our youth to be the best at all cost, but they shouldn't be asked to give up the fruits of their labor, which is the euphoria in winning from playing their best. Anything less than that is diminishing their self worth. Humility in winning is taught when the game is over, not during the game.

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