Sportsmanship vs. Ignorance

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I recently had a conversation with two basketball officials, one who refs college games and the other junior high and high school games. I was amazed at how similar their experiences are to the baseball world. They find some coaches teach their student athletes the game, trying to impact their lives by doing the right thing. But they also have nightmare stories of coaches desperately missing the mark.

One team started the second half with a fifty-point lead but still had all five starters in and were running a full court press. During a timeout the ref asked the head coach if he was really going to keep this up for the rest of the game. The coach said his team needed to stay sharp, and he believed in never holding back. The ref told the coach he was "basketball ignorant, hurting kids on both teams."


I’ve seen similar things on the baseball field, overzealous coaches so caught up in the competition that they lose sight of the bigger picture. I have confronted youth league coaches who are still stealing base after base, though they have a twelve-run lead in the third inning. They respond, "Youth league baseball is different than the pros."

Garbage! Baseball is baseball, and sportsmanship is sportsmanship.

Sure, a youth league game can quickly turn around and the other team could put up a dozen runs in a blink of an eye. Good! A close game at the youth level is better for all the kids on the field anyhow.

When you have a substantial lead, how about taking out your best pitcher and letting someone pitch who has been wanting to learn how, or letting your full-time right fielder take a shot at shortstop?

How about trying to protect the dignity of the opposing players by not continuing to exploit their weaknesses, just so you can brag to the rest of the world that you "short-gamed" the other team?

How about respecting the competition and the game by not worrying about your run differential and how it may affect your tournament seed?

It all comes down to motive. If your motive is to dominate, to embarrass your opponent just to make yourself look better, then you have moved past "sports ignorance." You’re just plain ignorant.

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    MY DAUGHTERS WERE CHEERLEADERS AND IT WAS THE MOST DEGRADING TIME OF ALL OF OUR LIVES! My point is that this is not just the parents , in our case it was the COACH! She is an abusive BULLY to children and because she wins, she gets away with it! its so awful, and heartbreaking. My child saw a therapist and took an anxiety pill everyday before practice, because she knew the abuse that was coming. She finally got the courage to tell my husband and I how bad it was and when we told on her she told the principal that my daughterwas slow and had special needs! My daughter was on high honors when she was saying this about her! She was cruel and nasty to her! She then threatened her and told her "If you ever tell anyone again what happens in this gym , you wait and see what happens" We tried to reach her and she told our daughter that she will not call us back and she never will. So, Im sure your book is wonderful, but she is the kind of fake coach who would take your book and give it to all the parents to read to show that it is the parents, to take herself out of the picture . I feel like all the horrible fake coaches in this world would do the same. I urge you to write another one about bad coaching, for all of those kids who are living in hell! My child changed from this and she will never be the same again! i just want to save the next child victim, before its too late! Please help me by taking this seriously. Don't let another coach belittle another child! Thank You, Rose Sebastian
  • Great Stuff!!

    Mike, I was introduced to your Manifesto a few months ago and shared it with my 9U parents at a meeting preparing for the 2015 season. I shared with them that if I could state my feelings on youth baseball, or youth sports in general, it would be word for word what you write in your Manifesto! Thank you for being a vessel to change the face of youth sports one coach, one team, one league, one city, one state at a time! James
  • 10U AA baseball

    We were recently invited to play with 10 U AA baseball team in a World Series tournament. It didn't last long for us because we quickly determined the strategy to win the game by the head coach was to have the players in the dugout harass the opposing team's picture while we were at bat. It was the worst experience we've ever seen and are six years of baseball. We have determined with a few other gentleman we will be putting a team together based your manifesto. Teaching kids fundamentals and teaching with character thank you. Pat Patterson Broken Arrow Oklahoma
  • Sportsmanship

    Thanks for sharing this Mike! This is needed for all people to learn.
  • Thank you for saying this

    Thank you thank you thank you for saying this. I hope all coaches from 1st grade up to the pros read your wise commentary and take the time to reflect on their own coaching techniques. I'll take a loss with good sportsmanship any day over a win by playing only the "good" players while other kids sit on the bench.
  • This could not have been said better..

    Mike, this may be the most beneficial point for coaches, parents, and players to understand. This will be printed (credit given to you, of course) and given to my area coaches, and athletic entities. Thank you for sharing your wisdom of baseball and of life.
  • Amen, Brother!

    I have been coaching youth sports and I have always stressed Sportsmanship in triumph or defeat. I also have asked coaches too many times, "what are you trying to teach these kids?" "What good does it do to beat up on an inferior team?" I will graciously thank coaches who adjust their lineups because there is a mismatch. I have done the same in all sports. I always remind the kids "You could be the team that is getting beat the next game, so be a good sport and be humble. "How would you feel if someone disrespected you?" I am lucky that I have a good group of parents that I can talk to without feelings getting hurt.
  • Completely Agree

    Having raised two boys who played four sports, I completely agree with your viewpoint. In this day and age it is not about teaching the kids to play a sport. Any more it is about getting the best players on one team so they whoop up on everyone else. When I grew up in small town usa they divided the best players up on different teams so they were more equal and it was about teaching the game and sportsmanship. You win some, you lose some.
  • Mike, As a HS A.D. I greatly

    Mike, As a HS A.D. I greatly appreciate your thoughts and insights. I always pass them on to my coaches, student-athletes, and fans. Thanks for all you do to help make a difference in youth sports.
  • Sportsmanship

    Mike, I totally agree with you on this. I can't understand why it is so hard for so many coaches in all sports to get this.
  • Sportsmanship

    Thank you for sharing these insights to coaches, parents, and hopefully athletes.