A few weeks ago we wrote about running up the score during a youth sports game. Some coaches, in an effort to minimize the damage when two teams are completely mismatched in terms of skill, will actually encourage their team to “play down”, or put their 2nd string players in so the score doesn’t get completely inflated. But one football announcer thought that asking your team to play beneath their abilities is actually more un-sportsmanlike than running up the score. Needless to say the post got a lot of attention from sports parents and coaches alike and one reader left this thoughtful comment;
I have read the comments, and I have one question. Has anyone asked players of teams that have been blown out of the water if they were to feel it is unsportsmanlike if the other players (2nd/3rd/4th/…. strings) don’t try as hard?
We also have to understand that some coaches teach this, they build their own ego’s by winning games this way, and some coaches with-in a same organization want to blow out teams in their own organization because it makes them think they are better than anyone else. We need to ask the other side the question on how they feel before we can truly have an intelligent conversation about this topic.
We think this is a fair question to ask. No one likes getting blown out of the water, but is the team that is on the losing side more embarrassed by the score or would it be an even harder pill to swallow if they recognized that the other team wasn’t playing as hard?
A lot of coaches said that asking their players to play down is the worst possible solution. Some implement passing rules, meaning players have to pass at least 5 times before they can shoot. This helps slow down the offense and gives the opposing team the chance to make something happen defensively. Other coaches designate a player is who “it” and says they are the only ones allowed to try and score for a set period of time (usually this is a player who doesn’t score very often). One coach even said he talks with the opposing coach at ½ time and asks how they would like his team to proceed to try and even up the playing field.
What we would love is to hear from coaches that have been on the losing side of these games.
How would you prefer the opposing coach approach the rest of the game? How do you keep your team for giving up and losing heart? Would you rather your team lose by a landslide or play against a team that is only giving 50% of what they can do? Obviously in youth sports some teams are going to be evenly matched (and sometimes losing by 1 point/run/goal/touchdown can be even more heart-breaking that losing by a landslide) and other teams are going to be almost tragically mismatched. But what does the team on the losing side want to get out of the game? Would you prefer letting the other team run up the score, have them play at half-speed, or find some kind of compromise in between?