What if we did away with declaring a winner and a loser in a competition and just gave everyone participation medals?
I vote no on that motion, but it sure seems like that is where we are headed as a society. Instead of recognizing people who work hard and excel at something, it seems like we would rather drag them down and draw them back to the rest of the crowd so that no one feels inferior.
This internal debate arrived in my mind last night at a basketball game as I listened to the crowd react to a lopsided game, which is often what you experience in a varsity basketball tournament when the #1 seeded team takes on the #8 team.
Scotland County’s state ranked girls defeated Marion County 85-19. (For the record I looked back to when Marion County won the state championship back in 2010-11 season. They posted victories like 83-16, 67-13 and 69-19.)
I’ve been on the 19 point-side of that mountain before, and yes it sucks. But after I got over the frustration, I had to ask myself what should have been done differently? I came to the conclusion, I could either get better, or I could get used to it. Sometimes in life you are going to run into a superior opponent. Tip your hat and get ready for the next challenge.
Is it really fair to ask the better team to not play so hard? “Look I know you worked really hard to be this good, but we didn’t, so could you please waste all of your efforts to make yourselves better players, and not showcase your talents to the college scouts in the crowd so that we don’t look so bad?”
Before you say that the coach should play the bench more, let me remind you this is a varsity tournament. There is a junior varsity season for the younger kids. The varsity kids do not get to travel to all the junior varsity games and play extra minutes if the competition level dictates it. These seniors only have so many minutes left in their high school careers. They didn’t make the schedule. They have no control over the competition. They deserve to be able to play, not because they are entitled to it because they are seniors, but because they have put in the time and the effort to be the best players on their team.
Sure you can argue that the better team should back off, and not try so hard. But you have to stop and ask yourselves why we are here in the first place? Do you get any better by only giving 50%. In a tournament, you are trying to win all three games to claim the championship and a plaque for the trophy case. Over the season, you are trying to get better and possibly be able to hoist the conference championship banner, or claim a district title and make it into the state playoffs.
If your best players are only getting to play half a game because everyone else is so worried about beating someone too bad, it can only make it that much more difficult to achieve your goal.
On game nights, there is no practice. So kids are getting their conditioning in via the game, meaning they need to run. If they only play half the game, they are going to be out of shape when they need to be able to play an entire game.
If you are asking them to hold back, and not play so hard, the same thing can happen. When the time comes for them to make a good play, will they be able to, as before they weren’t allowed to try because it might create too large a margin of victory.
Before you send the lynch mob my way – I’m not encouraging calling timeouts late to try to reach 100 points, or demanding the full-court press all 32 minutes. I’m only suggesting that people cut these kids a little slack. They aren’t out their trying to rub it in the face of their opponents. They are simply working to produce the best basketball play possible for every second they have left to be on the court together.
When did we become so entitled?
If one person excels at the workplace, should they be told to slow down, and not work so hard so that everyone else has a chance at the promotion?
How about in the classroom? Do we need to force the top students to the back of the room to play video games, watch movies or sleep instead of paying attention in class and completing their assignments? That way no one makes the honor roll.
Should we move the kindergarteners into calculus and physics classes to bring down the competition level to boost the self esteem of the lower achieving high school students by giving them someone that they can do better than?
No? Then why should the basketball court be any different? I say do your best and forget the rest!