A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Win at all costs?

Ever heard the phrase "Win at all costs?" This incident puts a new spin on that phrase.

On January 13,the girls' basketball teams of two small Dallas-area private schools, the Dallas Academy and the Covenant School, played each other. The final score was 100-0 in favor of the Covenant School.

This score has raised questions about sportsmanship and values in youth athletics, and rightly so.

Sadly, this video doesn't provide even half of the real story, though.

The Dallas Academy specializes in working with students with learning disabilities. The girls from the Dallas Academy and their coach have maintained a positive attitude in the face of such a lopsided defeat, talking about team spirit and improvement and playing for the love of the game. They haven't won a game in four years. However, they cancelled any future games against Covenant, and, indeed, withdrew from the league:
The Bulldogs play, Civello said, for more than the final score. They play in hope of improving skills, learning teamwork and picking up whatever life lessons athletics may bring.

But they won't be playing Covenant again this season; they canceled their Jan. 30 game against the team. After the game, Dallas Academy informed the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools that it was withdrawing its girls team from the league for the rest of the season.

"We just said, 'The hell with it,' " said Jim Richardson, Dallas Academy's headmaster.

Instead, the team will set up a new schedule against some junior varsity teams.

The Covenant School, which is a Christian school, later issued an apology and announced its intention to forfeit the game:
Officials from The Covenant School visited Dallas Academy on Thursday morning to apologize for their girls basketball team's "victory without honor" in last week's 100-0 game.

Covenant, located in Dallas, also e-mailed the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools to declare its desire to forfeit the District 3-2A game.

Edd Burleson, the TAPPS director who oversees 236-member high schools, said there is no formal procedure when a school wants to overturn one of its victories.

"If they want to forfeit, it's forfeited," he said.

Dallas Academy athletic director Jeremy Civello said his school accepted the "heartfelt" apology delivered by Covenant's head of school, Kyle Queal, and athletic director Brice Helton.

Civello said the girls' team, which hasn't won a game in his four years there, doesn't want to be credited with a victory it didn't earn on the court.

"Covenant has a great team," Civello said. "We wish them all the best for the rest of the season. We don't think what happened is a reflection on those girls in any way."

Dallas Academy has since withdrawn its team from the TAPPS district and is piecing together a new schedule that will include junior varsity opponents.

Queal did not return phone messages Thursday. Covenant posted the apology on its Web site 10 days after the game.

The Web site has removed the 100-0 victory from the team's record, which it lists as 6-3. The three losses have been to larger schools. Covenant is undefeated in district, winning its three other Class 2A games, 54-29, 66-7 and 77-27.

The Web site message from Queal and Todd Doshier, the North Dallas Christian school's chairman, called the 100-0 final a "victory without honor," "shameful" and an "embarrassment."

On Jan. 13, Covenant kept the pressure on winless Dallas Academy until midway though the fourth quarter, when it scored its 100th point. The score was 59-0 at halftime and 88-0 after three quarters.

Dallas Academy is known for its work with students who have learning problems, such as short attention spans and concentration. Dallas Academy headmaster Jim Richardson said those problems sometimes manifest themselves on the court.

Asked about the final score Wednesday by e-mail, Covenant coach Micah Grimes responded: "It's unfortunate we got to 100 points in the game against Dallas Academy. It just happened, and we are not happy about that.

"Please know Covenant intended no harm against them. I see this as a real learning opportunity, so we can prevent this from happening in the future."

The Covenant Web site said the school has "acted to ensure that such an unfortunate incident can never happen again."

It gave offered no details on what actions were taken.

But wait, now it gets even better. Covenant fired the coach when he objected to the apology over the score:
The Covenant School fired its girls basketball coach Sunday, the same day he posted a message on a youth basketball Web site saying he disagreed with school officials who had publicly apologized for the team's 100-0 victory over Dallas Academy.

In reporting the firing, Kyle Queal, Covenant's head of school, emphasized that former coach Micah Grimes "now only represents himself" when discussing the game, which has become a national talking point. Queal said he could not say whether the firing was a direct result of the posting and declined to answer any questions.

In a statement posted Sunday on www.flightbasketball.com, Grimes offered his first public comment since the story was first reported.

"I respectfully disagree with the apology, especially the notion that the Covenant School girls basketball team should feel 'embarrassed' or 'ashamed,' " part of the post says. "We played the game as it was meant to be played and would not intentionally run up the score on any opponent. Although a wide-margin victory is never evidence of compassion, my girls played with honor and integrity and showed respect to Dallas Academy."

Grimes also included the quarter-by-quarter scoring on his post: 35, 24, 29, 12.

At the end of his post on the Web site, which identifies him as co-founder of Flight Basketball, Grimes wrote, "So if I lose my job over these statements, I will walk away with my integrity."

Grimes did not teach or work at The Covenant School. He was in his fourth season as girls basketball coach, having built the program from a 2-19 record his first season to a state championship contender last season. Covenant, which plays larger out-of-district schools, is 6-3 this season and undefeated in its Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools district. It has informed TAPPS headquarters that it has chosen to forfeit the Dallas Academy game.

What did this win cost?
1. It cost the coach his job.
2. It cost a Christian school its reputation for living out the Christian values of mercy, at least temporarily. They have endeavored to right this, belatedly.
3. It caused at least temporary humiliation to the girls on the Dallas Academy team, although their grace afterwards brought them national attention.

When I was very young, there was no mercy rule in softball. I was once involved in a game in which the final score was 72-3 against a neighboring elementary school. I think I was in fourth grade at the time. We scored a bunch of runs in the first inning, as I remember, but as it became apparent by the middle of the second inning that the other team was completely not up to it, our coaches did change strategies. Our pitcher, who was dominant, was moved to center field. We were told to play any position we had ever wanted to play, but had never gotten to try in a game (I even got to pitch, which convinced me I should never pitch again). One of our players helped a girl on the opposing team learn how to swing levelly, and she got a hit. We cheered the other team when they scored. After the game was over, both teams shared their cans of pop and snacks together, as one group.

But we were still sorry that we had gotten the score up to 72 runs. To this day, as you can see, this game has lingered with me, when other, sweeter victories are nothing but dim sparks in my memory.

I have played sports for nearly forty years. Winning is great, and I love it. I believe in playing my heart out, and I love competition. I even played while pregnant-- carefully, and with doctor's approval. But sometimes, there is nobility on defeat, as well. Knowing that you played hard and made progress in some areas is also valuable. Playing for the love of the game is valuable. Most participants in athletics won't become pros-- but perhaps, they can develop a lifelong opportunity to play the game, as I have, and my life has been the richer for it. The friends I have made and the camaraderie enjoyed have been special gifts. This basketball game reminds us all of that.

Something to think about today as we all worship at the altar of the Super Bowl this evening. I personally will be cheering on the Cardinals in my Kurt Warner jersey, hoping for a miracle.



At 2/1/09, 11:28 AM, Blogger Lking4truth said...

Wow, these girls (Dallas Academy) show amazing strength and collectiveness as a team. They definitely show what team sports are all about. As for the girls on Covenant, I feel bad for them, (As if what is being described is true) 1. A coach that even today won’t apologize for his actions, and 2. playing in a venue with your home team fans (which I am assuming would include parents and faculty) cheering you on as you pound the opposing team into the ground: Who can blame them for following the lead of the people that are supposed to teach them these things; (sportsmanship, compassion, and good plain old FUN) I hope the Dallas team continues to thrive as a team, and I hope the Covenant team forgives themselves and lets go of any guilt. As they are just kids following the lead of a few misguided and/or temporarily misguided adults. (Were all human …..not apes right??? …. Either way, we all make mistakes)

At 2/1/09, 1:07 PM, Blogger Dan Edwards said...

Sadly, too many youth sports have coaches with this "win at any cost" attitude. Eons ago, when I coached a high school baseball team, we encountered one such coach. My team had one player who'd ever played baseball ( very poor, rural area with next to no community youth sports, no little league....), anyhow, our first game was against a 2A level school. We were a B school (very small). This 2A school had shut out our school in their two games the previous season. My boys got five runs off of them in losing 35 - 5. The 2A coach was furious with his starting players! He kept yelling at them and kept them in the whole game (shortened by State Athletic League mandated 10 run lead after five innings).

I've also encountered coaches who used inappropriate language at their players, grabbed facemasks and yanked players.....

Pity Covenent's coach. He needs their prayers.

At 2/4/09, 3:38 PM, Blogger Goldie said...

I've been following the coverage on this game, and I am still very confused. What did the Covenant team do that was so wrong? What were their other options? Isn't "throwing the game" illegal? My son played rec basketball for four years. Some years he'd be on a winning team, some years he'd be on a losing team. Sometimes they would go against an undefeated team and get pummeled. What can you do? It's life. I've been a league bowler for almost nine years now and I have never seen anyone apologize to another team for winning all three games, much less try to lose on purpose? I must be missing something, because this seems extremely bizzarre to me.


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