Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rules? We don't need no stinkin" rules!!!!!!!!

All my apologies to John Huston and to all those tired of this well worn and much abused cliche, but I was at a loss and felt it fit.

In the state of Texas we have the University Interscholastic League (UIL), which was established in order to establish rules and guidelines for interscholastic sports and competitions.  Not only do they establish these guidelines and rules, they have the misfortune of enforcing them.  Being a representative of the UIL is akin to being a DEA agent in a trailer park full of meth labs or a conservative walking the streets of Pelosi's district.

Because there are rules, many coaches adhere to and follow them like the gospel, other coaches figure out how to skirt the rules without going too far, and the arrogant or desperate just choose to violate them.  Arrogant coaches rely on their reputation or the reputation of the school or district to get by.  Desperate coaches violate the rules in order to gain the upper hand they feel they need to compete and hold onto their jobs.  The violations may range from exceeding the allowed practice hours, recruiting student athletes (some in the 6th and 7th grades), pressuring teachers to give passing grades to needed players (never to unneeded), to illegal practices and ignoring the use of banned substances.

As I said, most schools adhere to these rules.  The majority of coaches in the state and honest, upstanding men and women who want to serve as role models for the student athletes they coach.  They see athletics as a metaphor for life and try to prepare students for existence beyond the walls of the school.  They want students to learn from their mistakes, to take responsibility for their actions and become productive members of society.  Should a mistake happen, these are the coaches that will report themselves to the UIL, take responsibility for what happened and willingly accept consequences.  These are the coaches you want your child to have.

Other coaches will use various excuses to justify the bending, if not the outright breaking, of the rules.  Many times they will cite pressure from the community.  Yes, we all want to be winners, and sadly, there are far too many communities in the state that demand it at all costs.  With the "support" of the community, coaches will take chances to see what they can get away with.  The more they can get away with, the more they will do.  Once they have the tacit approval of the community at large, it will snowball.  Ironically, this situation is similar to what you might find in major NCAA programs.  the head coach will be the one skating away to another program while the school, assistant coaches and students are the ones that suffer.

Some coaches will skirt the rules to try to gain a competitive advantage.  Unfortunately, a community will look at the numbers of wins, championships and D1 players a coach produces compared to the number of honor graduates, college bound students, and future doctors, lawyers and teachers that a coach will produce.  When a person is desperate to hold onto their job, they will do what is necessary.  If this means breaking a few rules, then so be it.  Once agin, what are we teaching the kids?

As I said earlier, the large majority of coaches in Texas are doing a great job of dveloping not only good athletes, but good citizens.  They instill positive values and become outstanding role models for the students they coach.  They emphasize the importance of education, self reliance, personal responsibility and hard work.  It may not always result in victories on the court or field, but I would rather have a student succeed in life because of something I taught them than have that student end up lost because they never learned what is truly important.

To the coaches that do choose to break the rules, I have to question why you stay in the business.  You can justify it any way you want, but that doesn't make it right.  "Every one else does" went out in the 3rd grade, and no every one else does not.  "I need to do it to stay competitive, or keep my job" is not going to fly either.  If you have to sell your soul in order to keep a job, is it worth it?  If you can justify it in your mind and sleep at night, then perhaps you need to reconsider your career path.  Perhaps a career in politics or arms trade or telemarketing is more your style.

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