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Your Call: Bad Sportsmanship? December 27, 2007

Posted by Marquis Chapman in Basketball, Sports, Your Call.

During the holidays, I always try to check out some high school basketball tournaments.  Yesterday, I went to a high school girl’s basketball tournament. I arrived late to the game I had planned to watch, as it was already halftime.  The game featured a Division IV team which we will call Team Red, facing a Division I team that we’ll call Team Blue.  As I mentioned before, I arrived to the game at half time.  Team Blue was destroying Team Red 46-5.

At the start of the 2nd half, I noticed Team Blue ran a full court press against Team Red and kept some of their starters in.  They continued to run the full court press the entire 2nd half.  When it was all said it done, Team Blue defeated Team Red with a score of 83-16. There seemed to be no ill will between the coaches and the teams as they shook hands at the end of the game, and no words were exchanged.

So here is the question. Was it bad sportsmanship for Team Blue to continue to run a full court press with most of their starters in the game, or should they have taken the full court press off and not run the score up on Team Red?  Some argue that it’s perfectly fine to continue to run the press because it sends a message to other teams in the tournament. Others however, firmly believe that starters should be taken out, and a full court press should no longer be implemented when the game is out of reach. This is something many high school basketball fans, as well as coaches, have continued to disagree on. It’s Your Call


1. Sportsattitude - December 27, 2007

I actually saw this kind of thing years ago in college when Penn State-Harrisburg was trying to put together an NAIA program from scratch and played a game at Spring Garden, who at the time was one of the powers in the Philly area as far as NAIA schools. The Spring Garden starters were in for the entire game, pressing until the very end in what was an ugly final score in the 80-40 range or so. It was early in the season and the logic of the Spring Garden coach was he “wanted to work on the press since it was still early in the year.” Well, working on the press is one thing but when your opponent is by its very nature ill-equipped to handle it, what kind of real “practice” are you getting? Are you really building confidence by repeatedly turning the opponent over and scoring layups with ease? Aren’t players – even younger ones – capable of understanding what they are achieving isn’t requiring much effort and is not a true indicator of how they’ll do against equal talent? I don’t think running a full court press against clearly inferior talent is doing anything but running up the score.

2. K.C. - December 27, 2007

Youth and High School sports are the genesis of what we try to instill in young men and women to prepare them for adult life. Character,humility,sportsmanship,and working together as a team are the building blocks of High School sports.I always find it ironic that these are the levels that you find the most unsportsman like conduct. Having coached on the youth level,and having been on both sides of the coin I always tried to win and lose with dignity. If I had a big lead I would pull my starters,Sometimes to there chagrin and there parents who wanted little Johnnie to score as many points as possible even if the score was lopsided. And by the same token if I was down by thirty I coached as if it was a close game. You never stop coaching. In the big picture less than 15% of High School atheletes will go on to college and compete,and less than 5% will compete as a professional. So the question is what are we as adults teaching kids if we run up the score??. Most kids are playing for the fun of the game and to have a positive experience(Some of them wont find that out until they are done and look back on it) Sometimes you have to ask the coach why they press in a blow-out. You will probaly get the stock ansewer like “We need to work on our press” Thats ridiculous because its always going to look good against inferior talent. Some coaches like to pad stats. That is keep starters in so they can score more points.And some just have misplaced egos who think its about them and not there team. I do find that High School atheletes are resilient they bounce back pretty fast and show up the next day. Youth sports are sometimes different some kids are so traumtized from a horrible loss that they never want to play the sport again.

3. W.B. - December 27, 2007

I agree with both sportsattitude and K.C. It would seem to be bad sportsmanship to continue full press when lack of competition has been established and the game becomes untouchable to the losing team. I think it would be a perfect opportunity to take out the starters and allow the rest of the team some play; then the excuse of practicing a play or press during real games would seem reasonable.

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