COMMENTARY: Unsightly prep routs not limited to Texas

Here is the danger of high school sports teams running up the score against inferior opponents:

It usually takes an adult to first exhibit a hint of sportsmanship.

No wonder some games run amok.

There is no good answer to a mystery that dates back years, why a fraction of coaches and parents feel the need to disgrace another on the scoreboard.

Some might not even realize they’re supporting it. Seriously. That’s how pathetically wired they are to winning. That’s how deep their competitive fire burns, long ago having passed the stage of classy and landed straight on shameful.

Most realize it. Most know exactly the baloney they are endorsing.

You might have heard about the prep girls basketball team in Texas that beat another 100-0 last week. Officials from the winning school later apologized and said they felt so embarrassed by the score — and probably the fact their team continued to press and shoot 3-pointers deep into the fourth quarter — that it was their wish to forfeit the game. The head coach disagreed, so he was fired. A real prince, that guy.

The losing team, which has about 20 girls in its school, most of whom are learning disabled, refused such a request and chose instead to suspend its season after not having won a game in four years.

Questionable routs aren’t limited to Texas or basketball. One locally raised the ire of some last week. It happened when Centennial High beat Mojave 19-1 in girls soccer, when the defending Southern Nevada champion Bulldogs had the match won at halftime but continued to score thereafter.

Centennial is again very good, 8-0-1 and having outscored opponents 64-3. Its roster is full of club-level players with backups who could start for anyone else in the state. Nevada also is not California or Texas or others with the depth of talent in soccer. There are going to be more one-sided games here.

But 19-1 when you are up 9-0 at halftime? And other wins of 14-0 and 12-0?

“Our goal is to never embarrass anyone,” said Emmanuel Ayim, Centennial’s first-year coach. “We play those who don’t start many more minutes in these games. I coach my girls to respect their opponent. It’s a hard position to be in as a coach but honestly a very good one.

“I understand the (opponent’s) frustration, but we have backups trying to impress and move up the depth chart. If I was the other coach and thought a team was taking it easy on purpose, I would think that disrespectful.”

Said Mojave first-year coach Rachal Bell, whose team is 1-8: “I told my girls to keep their heads up and not show the same character flaws as the other team. Absolutely, (Centennial ran up the score). I’ve been around soccer my entire life. I’ve been on both sides of this. There are ways to win and ways not to. It was heartbreaking to watch. They let up a little late in the game but pretty much kept attacking.”

Ayim disputes this. He claims Bell taunted his players with disparaging remarks. Bell says Centennial players were the ones talking trash. Whatever. All of that is a fourth-rate sidebar drama to the main issue, which is this:

There are ways in every high school sport to win soundly and not humiliate another. You can possess the ball in soccer once leading comfortably and demand your players execute so many passes and touches before shooting from no closer than 30 to 40 yards.

You don’t have to allow one of your best players to score six goals, as Ayim did against Mohave, then suggest it was to rebuild her shaken confidence. Three goals probably would do the trick.

You can tell backups to play hard and yet still not pour it on, but that might upset the parent who pays thousands of dollars a year for club fees and who might throw a fit if his/her little darling isn’t allowed to attack and score in case a college coach might be within 100 miles of the pitch.

Yep. Parents in these situations often are as insufferable as coaches.

But this isn’t just about Centennial girls soccer. It is just one small part of a much larger topic.

This isn’t college or professional sports, where beating a team into submission is an acceptable objective for anyone who wants to survive and succeed. This is perhaps the final level of sport where athletes can learn and demonstrate important traits like integrity and sportsmanship.

After this, the real world awaits, where everything is about winning.

“I don’t like seeing this at all,” said Eldorado coach Gerald Pentsil, head of the soccer coaches association. “You don’t need to score 19 goals to prove a point. I can’t tell anyone how to coach, but that was very bad. It’s not what we promote.”

Maybe something good will come of it in the future, that it can be used as a teaching tool to better everyone. But that would take the wisdom of adults.


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