What to Do in Poor Sportsmanship Situations When Coaching Youth Football
I heard from a youth football coach recently who wondered if he was the “victim” of poor sportsmanship. It was late in the 4th quarter of a game his team was losing by a score of 20-7. The other team was driving inside his 40 yard line and in the last 45 seconds they used all 3 of their time outs. The last timeout they took was with 8 seconds remaining from his 10 yard line. They scored on the last play of the game on a pass play.
In the handshake line the losing coach calmly asked the opposing coach what the deal was with scoring on the last play of the game and the other coach responded with a mumbled “it was a two score game.” While I can certainly agree with anyone that you want to play to win the game and a two score game is not in the bag until the gun sounds. If the goal is to win the game, simply letting the clock run out would have done the trick. The other team had no timeouts remaining and the opposing coach had a first down when he called the last timeout. I also agree that it’s the job of the defense to stop the offense and there are times when in order to get better you have to try and work on some things, this seemed to be over the line a bit.
This coach wondered if letting the opposing coach know he thought this was unsportsmanlike was the right thing to do or not. I’ve found in these types of situations it’s usually best to smile, shake their hands, tell them good game and move on. Most adults that have poor attitudes and bad manners when it comes to sportsmanship simply aren’t going to change their minds via a talk from an opposing coach.
All you can do is take care of, prepare and do the best you can with your team. Let him worry about his team, you aren’t going to change his heart or mind with a heated exchange in the handshake line. Those type of exchanges do nothing to help him or your team and you come off as a sore loser.
Some people hold grudges and think that the way to show someone like this is to do the very same thing back to that coach when you have the chance. They feel by having the very same thing done to them, the coach will see the “error of his ways”, repent and change his approach. Doing something like that only emboldens this type of coach. He now thinks everyone does it and that it is perfectly fine to continue with that way of doing things.
The only thing I have seen work a few times is setting a different example. A few years ago we played an out-state team that had often times won games by 50 plus-0 scores. We had them 35-0 in the first quarter as we were both running rapid pace no-huddle offenses. We let off the gas and the final score was just 49-14. They knew the score could have been much worse and thanked us profusely for not pouring it on. After that game they got together as a coaching staff and reevaluated how they were going to approach blow-out games. They let me know later in the season that their kids and coaching staff learned a lesson about compassion from us. They subbed kids in more liberally and called plays they thought had little chance of success and slowed the pace down when they got up by 3-4 scores. For the first time in a number of seasons they didn’t score more than 50 points in a game that season. They felt that while they scored fewer points they had a much more enjoyable season.
If you are faced with a situation you feel is unsportsmanlike, take a deep breath and think how you are going to be viewed by your players, coaches and parents if you create as scene. Worry about your team and the example you set, that is the only way you are probably going to change the heart and mind of an opposing youth football coach.
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