I’ve been a vocal opponent of the Participation Medal Society we are fostering in which every kid gets a trophy and winning or losing is irrelevant. But then you see something that lends credence to giving the old “Atta Boy!” to everyone after all.
It could be a youth player attacking a referee over a bad call. It could be a parent rushing on the field to confront a coach or official, or it could be what I witnessed last weekend at a final of a youth lacrosse tournament.
One of the teams playing was from the Lake Norman, N.C., area, and they exhibited all of the hallmark traits of a Hollywood villain team. They could have been the team in black playing the Bad News Bears. They could have been the team in black playing the Mighty Ducks.
They were 11-year-old and younger kids dressed in red and blue who happened to have a coaching staff who thought winning or losing a youth lacrosse game would lead to a lifetime of glory. That is where a line gets crossed. When teaching gets thrown out of the window and winning becomes the end-all of your efforts, everyone loses.
I lost as a spectator. The kids lost because the game became secondary to the ego of the coaches. The refs lost, well because the refs always lose.
Most important, though, Lake Norman lost.
The owner of the New York Giants once said, “It is good to see arrogance humbled,” I doubt this loss humbled the Lake Norman coaches, though. All it did was probably have them direct the brunt of their anger at 11-year-olds.
You expected to see adolescents having temper tantrums, but it wasn’t the case. Those who should have known better were having them. In the early games of the tourney, Lake Norman was beating teams to a pulp with a take-no-prisoners approach. They won two games by more than 20 goals and let the same two kids score at will. The other team in the final could have done that as well, but they chose to work in bench players and set up offenses they have been practicing.
In their zeal to beat teams senseless, the coaches from Lake Norman failed to realize that goal differential wasn’t the way to seed teams, but allowing the fewest goals was. So when Lake Norman wasn’t the top seed, its coaches called the tournament director to protest like they had the poor guy on speed dial. In the final, Lake Norman fell behind by three goals. In a trademark move, its coaches phoned the tourney director again and used a rules violation in a previous game to eject a player on the other team.
While dialing appeared to be a strength, their true proficiency was teaching the classic moves of the Argentinian soccer team. I haven’t seen so many 11-year-olds able to perfect the appearance of having a leg ripped off at the hip or shot dead at point blank range. At least twice a kid fell without being touched because the other team was leading a fast break toward the goal.
This wasn’t an injury, it was a coached strategy. It’s called a “flop.”
If I were a Lake Norman parent, I would be incensed. They were, but not at the coaches. They were incensed they lost. So I don’t expect things to change. By the way, the team that won the championship – they were from Fort Mill.
Sadly, that wasn’t the story to tell.
You can reach Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org to join the black-robed Cobra Kai.