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The art of balancing winning with respect

Posted: February 8, 2014 9:56 p.m.
Updated: February 8, 2014 9:56 p.m.

Fair and even competition brings out the best in everyone, but it’s taken for granted how hard it is to plan accordingly at the high school level.

Nearly every time the Santa Clarita Christian girls soccer team takes the field this season, it will do so against a team that’s significantly overmatched.

The Cardinals have scored 123 goals and surrendered just seven in 18 games this season, giving them an average goal differential of nearly seven-to-one.

It’s nice to win, but SCCS coaches and players are undoubtedly disappointed in the level of competition.

Simply put, they’re learning more about mercy than soccer.

“To win the way we’ve been doing, it puts our girls in a terrible position. ... The easy games we have tried to cancel,” says SCCS head coach Matt Gale.

In sports, athletes play to win — but high school athletes are just young adults with minds that are developing as rapidly as their bodies.

Protecting the feelings of the losing side is always a delicate topic, but how does it feel to be a big winner?

“It can be very uncomfortable,” said Canyon girls basketball coach Chuck Johns. “Especially when you make substitutions and there’s not a difference in the result. It’s hard to balance the respect you need to show for the sport and the desire you have to win.”

High school girls basketball sees its share of lopsided scores.

In one of the more exaggerated blowouts in high school sports history, Covenant, a private Christian school in Texas, saw its varsity girls basketball team defeat Dallas Academy 100-0 on Jan. 13, 2009.

Covenant’s head coach, Micah Grimes, lost his job after refusing to apologize about the result to local media.

A statement from the school was issued by headmaster Kyle Queal:

“It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. This clearly does not reflect a Christlike and honorable approach to competition.”

As unfortunate as it is, small private schools like Covenant often find themselves in these situations.

For schools with limited enrollment like SCCS and Trinity Classical Academy, there are usually only two options:

1. Completely dominate inferior competition.

2. Get completely dominated by larger schools in higher divisions with enrollments exceeding 2,000 students.

For this reason, Trinity Athletic Director Matt Dixon has spent a considerable amount of time searching for new conferences for his teams to join.

“It’s one of those things where we are constantly trying to evaluate what’s best for our school,” Dixon says. “I don’t find it healthy for anyone when they sit in a level where they are obliterating everyone. It’s important to understand what your definition of success is. Too often we look at it and we think you’re only successful if you play the game and win. But John Wooden’s idea of success is planning and preparing to the best of your ability.”

Of course, the same problems exist for public schools.

This year’s Golden Valley girls soccer team came into the Foothill season with an 8-1-2 record and a new school-best for wins in a season.

But with two games left in Foothill play, the Grizzlies have yet to win a game in the competitive league. Their record stands at 8-8-2.

“This valley kills me,” said Golden Valley head coach Adam Yassaman after his team’s 2-0 loss to Saugus on Jan. 28. “In the preleague season we were beating teams that finished in first-, second-place in their divisions. Then we come into league season and you can tell how different the game really is out here.”

As for a player like SCCS sophomore Gracie Gwinn, who likely won’t see competitive soccer matches until the playoffs, it’s about finding ways to make winning constructive even if its by a big margin.

“I just try and think about how I can personally get better,” Gwinn says.

And that’s really the objective.

Beyond college scholarships and cutthroat crowds, high school sports should be about making young men and women better people.

That goal might be a little diluted when competition isn’t fair and players are forced to deal with an uncomfortable situation.

Then again, maybe the predicament the SCCS girls are in is the perfect learning experience.


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