Has Winning Also Become an Entitlement?

As I’ve mentioned a few times, one of my vocations is that of sports photographer. Being down on the sidelines, close to the action allows me to see and hear things going on during games that those watching on TV or even from the stadium seats often miss.  Sometimes, this access to the nitty great, so to say, gives sports a completely different look and feel.

Yesterday, I was covering a high school state championship tournament.  It was a two-day double elimination event involving 56 teams, playing in six different classifications, A through AAAAAA.

As long as I can remember, organized team sports have always been promoted as a means of developing character, integrity, and leadership skills in the athletes who play the games.  If this be true, and I’m sure that it is in the majority of cases, one would assume that these skills are mentored by the coaches and grow and evolve in the players as they engage in healthy competition and learn the benefits of fair play and being part of a team effort.

Back to the tournament.

In two cases after the completion of championship games, players from the losing team either failed, or refused to come to the dais set up on the field to be recognized and to receive their runner-up trophies.  In one case, the official representing the state high school athletic association was forced to walk twenty or so yards out to where the team and its coaches sat on the turf.  No one from the team stood up to receive the trophy or show any appreciation of having received it.

I watched this in a state of disbelief.  Sure it hurts to come that close to winning a state championship only to finish in second place.  But if those associated benefits of playing team sports are to be believed, this is the time to rise above defeat and congratulate your opponent, to recognize the level of your own team’s achievement, and to display the true essence of sportsmanship.

Apparently not in some cases.

I had to wonder what was going through the minds of those coaches as they tacitly allowed their players to so thoroughly embarrass themselves, their team, and their schools by refusing to participate in the award’s ceremony.

It did make me wish, for one fleeting moment, that I was the Principal of one, or both, of those schools.  I would have relished the opportunity to invite the head coaches down to my office for a chat on Monday morning.

Short of that, I just sat there shaking my head.  I certainly didn’t waste my time attempting to capture an image of this sorry display.


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