Competition. Pride. Perseverance. Defeat. These are some of the things that you learn when you’re playing sports in high school. For the majority of us who didn’t use the experience to springboard us to a college scholarship or a professional career, sports were meant to serve as a tool to make us better people by teaching us things that we wouldn’t learn in a classroom. Book smarts will only get you so far. At some point, learning teamwork, how to win, how to lose and how to perform in pressure situations will become valuable assets in the lives of many. Sports certainly isn’t the only way to learn these things, but it certainly is the most convenient and common way.
A couple of weeks ago, Micah Grimes was one of the people who taught these things as a girls basketball coach at the Dallas Covenant School. Today, Grimes is faced with finding another job after Covenant fired him yesterday. The school has not said this directly, but it is probable that Grimes lost his job because he coached his team to a blowout win earlier this month and refused to feel sorry that he did so.
By the way, the score of that game was 100-0. Yes, really.
The game, which Covenant played against Dallas Academy, has received national attention because of the lopsided (extreme understatement there) score and the fact that Dallas Academy is a school of students with "learning differences" like ADHD and dyslexia. The school has only 20 students, nearly half of them (8) play varsity-level basketball.
After word got out that their school had administered a 100-point smackdown, Covenant’s higher-ups issued an apology and started trying to forfeit the game in an effort to make things right. The school’s headmaster said in a statement, "It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. This clearly does not reflect a Christlike and honorable approach to competition," and that "a victory without honor is a great loss."
The administration made that statement without talking to Coach Grimes. As such, he felt compelled to post his side of the story, which laid out a different account of the game than the one being published by news outlets and outlined his lack of remorse about how the game turned out.
In response to the statement posted on The Covenant School Website, I respectfully disagree with the apology, especially the notion that the Covenant School girls basketball team should feel "embarrassed" or "ashamed." 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. We honor God, ourselves, and our families when we step on the court to compete. I do no[t] wish to forfeit the game. What kind of example does it set for our children? Do we really want to punish Covenant School Girls? Does forfeiting really help Dallas Academy girls? We experienced a blowout almost 4 years ago and it was painful, but it made us who we arer today. I believe in the lessons that sports teach us. Competition builds character, and teaches us to value selflessness, hard work, and perseverance. As a coach, I have instilled in my girls these values. So if I lose my job over these statements, I will walk away with my integrity.
I’m going to agree with Grimes. A lot of what he said in his statement is what I said in a conversation with some colleagues about the incident before I was able to view his full statement. Losing sucks, but it’s a part of the game. And in reading the coach’s account of how the game went on– which i trust more than the losing team’s parent accounts, by the way– you begin to realize that the only way that this game could have been kept under control is if Covenant stopped competing entirely. It is painfully obvious that these two teams had no business being on the same court in a district game, but no one on the floor really had any control over that.
And so the game happened and here we are now, talking about things like sportsmanship, honor and dignity. We even have to wonder what a "Christlike and honorable approach to competition" is like. I don’t remember Christ lacing up any sneakers to play basketball, or any other game for that matter, or speaking on how to govern oneself when your opponent is outmatched. The Dallas Academy team is receiving this outpouring of public support and sympathy because they aren’t good at basketball. Mark Cuban reportedly offered for them to watch a Mavericks game from his luxury suite.
If I sound crass and uncaring, it’s only because it’s in my nature. I do believe, ideally, that you shouldn’t run the score up on anyone, nor should you try to embarrass them. I’ve been on a team that was a lot better than its competition, though. We didn’t win by 100, but the margin of victory was higher than 60. And we weren’t trying to prove anything or to cause those kids undue hurt or sadness. We were just better. And doing anything else than playing the way we knew how would have been going against everything that we practiced up to that point. So we did what we knew how.
My questions are for the Dallas Academy. Why do you field a team when you know they aren’t competitive? The team hasn’t won a game in four years, after all. Why, when the score was 59-0 at halftime, didn’t you forfeit if you felt that things were too far out of hand?
I’d bet that the answers to those questions involve teaching kids about not giving up, about more than winning or losing. And accepting all of the pity coming its way is teaching the team the wrong sort of lesson. People will be better than you at some things. It’s a fact of life. Learning how to deal with that is important. Learning how to look someone in the eye and congratulate them on being superior to you is a hard thing to do, but these girls did it. But now, the better team is supposed to hand them a victory because they were too much better? Bad form, in my eyes.
So count me as one of the few people in Grimes’ corner. I’m sure it doesn’t mean much since I have no job to offer him, nor any means of getting his old one back, but I don’t think he was wrong. I’m sure all of this will be a learning experience for him. Pride. Defeat. Perseverance. Integrity. And when he passes these lessons along to players at the next coaching job I hope he gets, they’ll know that they can believe him, because he has walked that path before.