Friday, November 9, 2007

A sad state of affairs in high school sports

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about playing sports for the love of the participation and passion for the games. When I wrote that I was unaware of something that happened in my home state of Maine that really has me sad.
Granted, rules are important in sports. When you break the rules, you get punished, but at the same time, rules are established for a reason. Some are based on situational factors while others are set up to stop something from possibly happening. We have increasing seen different sport almost re-write their rule books to allow for interpretation of rules that have particular areas of grey. This is one of those rules that certainly should have been better evaluated prior to acting upon…
In late October, the Massabesic Mustangs’ Girls Cross Country team was competing in the Maine State Championships when they encountered “Rule 4, Section 5, Article 8-c of the National Federation rulebook prohibits: Competitors joining or grasping hands with each other during a race.”
At the end of the 23-minute race two of Massabesic’s runners were about to finish 5th and 6th in the race. While the team already had two top-ten finishers, a Class A State Championship was all theirs; and then freshman Nicole Smith took the hand of teammate and senior, Kendra Johnson. After crossing the finish line, both competitors were disqualified and Massabesic High School fell from 1st to 4th overall.
When asked about the disqualification, Massabesic Coach Mark Crepeau said, “There was no intent to help. Their intent was to congratulate each other because the race was over." And the coach has a point. The rule in question was established so runners couldn’t band together and block other runners from passing. There were no runners approaching Smith and Johnson.
Sadly, the Massabesic team lost what should have been a title for them and a shot at the New England Championships being held this weekend. Even sadder is that none of the other teams had a problem with the disqualification even though the situation was clear.
Nicole Smith and Kendra Johnson are competitors who celebrated the spirit of competition on that day and they were penalized for their love of both the sport and the concept of being a teammate.

2 comments:

rel=nofollowStephen said...

Sadly, this is a case of poor coaching. The rules are clear no contact between athletes for any reason during a race. I have coached girls for 20 years and always reinforce this before the season and again at the start of the championship season. Below is the National Federation Rules interpretation for the section in question. It leaves no grey area for interpretation. If the officials were to overlook this gesture no matter the intent it would weaken the enforcement of the rule in the future for teams who were acting malicious manner.

SITUATION 7: Two competitors from School A are competing for the conference title in the 3200-meter run. Leading the field, two Team A teammates approach the finish line and grasp hands and cross the line together. The runners are disqualified by the meet referee. RULING: Correct procedure. COMMENT: Although Rule 4-5-8 is addressing circumstances in which assistance could be provided to a runner consequently resulting in a disqualification, in the situation of grasping hands a definite disqualification results. It is at best difficult to determine assistance under this set of circumstances, but it is likely and is also possibly unsporting behavior. The application of this rule is to result in an immediate disqualification for grasping hands while crossing the finish line. (4-5-8)

rel=nofollowStephen said...

Sadly, this is a case of poor coaching. The rules are clear no contact between athletes for any reason during a race. I have coached girls for 20 years and always reinforce this before the season and again at the start of the championship season. Below is the National Federation Rules interpretation for the section in question. It leaves no grey area for interpretation. If the officials were to overlook this gesture no matter the intent it would weaken the enforcement of the rule in the future for teams who were acting malicious manner.

SITUATION 7: Two competitors from School A are competing for the conference title in the 3200-meter run. Leading the field, two Team A teammates approach the finish line and grasp hands and cross the line together. The runners are disqualified by the meet referee. RULING: Correct procedure. COMMENT: Although Rule 4-5-8 is addressing circumstances in which assistance could be provided to a runner consequently resulting in a disqualification, in the situation of grasping hands a definite disqualification results. It is at best difficult to determine assistance under this set of circumstances, but it is likely and is also possibly unsporting behavior. The application of this rule is to result in an immediate disqualification for grasping hands while crossing the finish line. (4-5-8)