Girls High School B-Ball Teams Try to Lose #Sportsmanship

Earlier this month Smyrna met Riverdale High School in one of the Tennessee district finals.  In a weird twist of fate, the winner would soon meet defending state champion, Blackman. The losing team would be sent to the other side of the bracket, avoiding Blackman until the state championship game, assuming they would win out.

Apparently, both teams figured out this scenario and independently decidedly to lose. What ensued was an ugly and despicable display of basketball. Starters were pulled early in the game by each coach. Players deliberately missed shots, did not get the ball over half court, stood in the lane and begged the referee to call 3 second violations, deliberately committed over-and-back violations… As the clock wound down and the score was tight, a Smyrna player attempted a shot at Riverdale’s basket.

http://www.tennessean.com/story/sports/high-school/2015/02/23/riverdale-smyrna-girls-basketball-teams-removed-from-postseason/23889277/

At that point, a clear-thinking referee got the coaches together and told them in no uncertain terms, “we are not going to make a travesty or mockery of the game. We are not going to start trying to shoot and score for the other team.” Another administrator from Smyrna went up to the head coach and said, ‘What are you doing? You need to play to win the ball game and stop this.” The starters were inserted back into the lineup and Smyrna won 55-29.

Punishment Fits The Crime: Understanding that both teams wanted to delay playing defending champion, Blackman, as long as possible, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) decided to make their wishes come true by banning both teams from further post-season play. They also fined both teams $1,500 and put them on probation for the following season.

The Appeal: Administrators from both schools appealed the state’s decision, “pleading” to allow the teams to continue in the tournament, but without the head coaches. In other words, punish the coaches and not the players. However, it was clear that the coaches, assistant coaches and players bought into this “losing strategy,” and the TSSAA held it’s ground.

Hard Lesson Learned: In subsequent interviews, it became clear that at least one of the coaches learned his lesson. Smyrna head coach, Shawn Middleton, said, “The bottom line is as a coach you make decisions in the heat of the game. No way would I do it again.” He went on to add, “It (the state’s decision) was hard to swallow. It was hard to tell my three seniors that their season is over. That was the toughest moment of my life.”

Joe’s Perspective: From the way this was written, I hope you can guess my perspective. You play the hand that is dealt you and you play it to the best of your ability. Embrace the challenge, give it everything you have, come together as a team, shock the world… and if you don’t win, you go on with your life. Sports is not war and nobody died. Use the experience to make you stronger.

In this case and in most cases, the means do not justify the ends. It’s not okay to deliberately lose because it will lengthen your season.  It’s not okay to plagiarize to get a better grade and it’s not okay to do wrongs to get more money.  I hear people say that,”It’s okay as long as I didn’t get caught.” That is a sad way to go through life. It’s the lowest form of moral reasoning. And, if only one team had decided to lose on purpose, the losing team would not have had to go to such extremes to lose.  Their deliberate actions would have been suspicious (Rhonda only shot 3-10…hmmm), but the officials would have continued the game.  The losing team might have gone on to make it deep in the tournament.  Would their actions have been more or less ethical because they didn’t get caught?

I think the coaches showed poor decision-making and abused their powers as a leader.  I think the players caved, sacrificed their integrity and made a mockery of the sport they loved. I think the game officials and the state officials handled this appropriately, reinforcing the principles of sportsmanship and competition. I was disappointed to learn that school officials fought this ruling, thereby implying the ruling was inherently unfair, instead of echoing the tough lessons to be learned. In the end, I believe this is a perfect story to teach sportsmanship, integrity, leadership & good-judgment. I hope I did my job.

Your Turn: Please place your comments below, (2) like and share our Facebook page (character development & leadership) or (3) tweet to @CDandLeadership)

1. I realize that I provided a one-sided persuasive argument here. How would you judge the actions of the coaches? The players? The game officials? The state officials? The administrations of the schools?

2. If you were ever in this situation as a player, how would you handle it? What if the coaches and/or other players wanted to “lose” the game? What would you do? What would you say?

Comments 71

  1. I couldn’t agree more. It is ridiculous that you would even ask your players to deliberately try to lose a game. It definitely shows the wrong message to everyone involved in sports. I think the state officials were right on point with their ruling. The coaches of each team missed a golden opportunity to show their players the correct way to do things. Kinda shocked they would even think like that.

    1. 1. The coaches should have done the right thing from the begginging and the end result would have been less harsh.
      2. I would disagree and talk to my team and coaches about it.

  2. As a athlete myself, if a coach told me to do such a thing, I’d look at him/her funny. This is an absolute disgrace to the game, and I think both teams punishments were extremely fair. Competitive sports teams should be excited for big games against tough opponents, it’s what you live for. I’d go on that court and play my heart out no matter what.

  3. I think that the punishment fits the crime well, and what they did was selfish of both teams. The coaches definitely abused their authority as leaders. If i were one of the players, I would simply play as if I were on my own team, and try to win.

  4. when I read this story, I was like why would a team try to lose on purpose. like common man, both of these tame try to lose on purpose this got to be the first in basketball history.

  5. I agree fully with the punishment that coaches and schools where put threw. I a, an athlete and a competitor but I also lose to my coaches and try to win so I don’t understand but I guess I can somewhat understand how the players did it. The coaches got the right punishment. Losing to avoid playing good teams is not the way to win. I would be upset as a player and honestly I might start to try and win the game and win the next one and just get super pissed because the competitor in me wants to win.

  6. I would have to agree. It’s ridiculous that you would even ask your players to deliberately try to lose a game. It definitely shows the wrong message to everyone involved in sports. I think the state officials were completely right on point with their ruling. The coaches of each team missed a golden opportunity to show their players the correct way to do things. It’s very disturbing teams would even consider, or even think about asking the player to deliberately lose a game.

  7. 1. I agree what kind of coach would tell there students to lose. It shows bad message to the team.

    2. If I was in the situation I would tell the coach no and that we will play the game as hard as we can and whatever happens , happens

    1. 1.i dont think it was fair to them for her to put them down but maybe she thought if they went out there with a negative mind that they will play harder
      2.i would tell them to do there best but dont lose because thats how you feel

  8. 1.I would judge the actions of the coaches by saying that what they did was completely wrong.The coaches told the team to loose, coaches are meant to be leaders.SO how are the coaches being leaders when they are not leading the team to success.

    I would judge the players actions by saying that the players were in a tough position.The players have to listen to the coaches, but they should have known that what he was telling them was not right.So in my opinion I think that the players didn’t want to make the coaches angry but they also didn’t want to loose,so they ended up just listening to their coach just like any other team would have.

    I would judge the game officials actions by saying that they were amazing decisions compared to the other decisions that have been made.we are not going to make a travesty or mockery of the game.The game official got the coaches together and said “we are not going to make a travesty or mockery of the game.We are not going to start trying to shoot and score for the other team.” Another administrator from Smyrna went up to the head coach and said, ‘What are you doing? You need to play to win the ball game and stop this.”
    I think that the game officials saw what was happening and were angry about it s they made the coach change their mind on what they were doing.

    I think the state officials had great actions .The state officials made the right decision by only punishing the coaches and not the players so they got the administrators to allow the team to go to the championship.Which is great because all the team did was obey their coach.

    The administrations of the schools made the right choices in my opinion.The reason why I think that the schools did the right thing s because the schools helped the state officials wishes come true by banning the both teams from the postseason and by fining them 1,500 dollars.

    2.If I was in the same situation as the teams i would handle it by disobeying my coach.
    What I would do is try my best to win the game instead of loosing it on purpose.

    If the coaches and/or other players wanted to “lose” the game,I would not because I don’t know about you but I would rather win a game than lose one.

    What I would do is try my best to win the game instead of loosing it on purpose.

    What I would say is that they need to at least try because no one should just not try and lose.I would also say that I’m not going to do that because its not right.

  9. I agree fully with the punishment that coaches and schools where put threw. I a, an athlete and a competitor but I also lose to my coaches and try to win so I don’t understand but I guess I can somewhat understand how the players did it. The coaches got the right punishment. Losing to avoid playing good teams is not the way to win. I would be upset as a player and honestly I might start to try and win the game and win the next one and just get super upset because the competitor in me wants to win.

  10. Coaches are meant to be leaders. If they’re telling their team to lose, then they’re not doing their job. Players are also supposed to play for their teammates. They need to do the right thing that’s best for each other. The state officials and the administrators made the right call. I would be very surprised and disappointed. I like to win and I’m going to fight until the end.

  11. I would never purposely lose a game just because I would have to face a hard team. That is ridiculous. The coaches and all of the players should be ashamed at themselves.

  12. I believe the coaches and players should be ashamed and deserved their punishment the way they got it. I it was up to me as a player I would beg my coach to let us smash the other team if they were trying to lose just to embarrass hem.

  13. 1. I think the two schools deserve what they got because they are trying to rig the brackets so they could make it further in the tournament. I think the officials probably were embarrassed because of how the students were playing. The kids probably felt like they looked stupid because they were making all of the mistakes on purpose.
    2. If I was a player and our coach told us to do this I would tell them they need to find someone to play for me because i’m not going to play to lose.

  14. This is a great example of what NOT to do. They sacrificed their season, their integrity, and their morals in order to not do something. It’s pretty sad.

  15. As an athlete, if a coach told me to lose because they didn’t want to go play up against a team, I’d tell them there’s no way that I would do it. This is an absolute disgrace to the game and the to the coaches, and I think both teams punishments were extremely fair.I think the state officials had great actions .The state officials made the right decision by only punishing the coaches and not the players so the team was allowed to the state championship.

  16. 1. I think the coaches were just trying to do what was best for the team but ended up in a tragedy and made them look bad, this is a lesson for all teams.
    2. I would talk to the coaches about playing to win, we would have to face the defending state champion either way so why not beat them in the beginning.

  17. 1. I think that it was a foolish act and that they should have not done it in the first place. The state officials did the right thing in my opinion. They should not have turned to trying to lose the game on purpose so they wouldn’t have to play the best team in the league.

    2. I would still try to win the game. It may result in me getting benched by the coach but in the end of it, i would feel good about myself and knowing that what they did was wrong and i persevered and kept going with trying to win the game.

  18. the coaches did wrong by letting the player do what they wanted to keep from trying to win so they wouldn’t have to play the defending state champs so the officals did the rght thing for teaching them a lesson for making a mochary of the sport.

  19. 1. The coaches made a poor decision to try and lose the game. The game officials did the right thing, telling them to play to win the game. The state did the right thing, the team needed to be punished for their actions.
    2.If this happened to me, I would tell someone of higher authority. I would still try my best to win the game, even if that took me getting benched.

  20. 1. I think it was really ridiculous but the officials did the right thing by making them play the game right. It was got that they were punished.

    2. If I were in that situation I would have done whatever my coach told me to do up until it got to the point that it did where they tried to score on the other teams goal.

  21. 1. I don’t agree the coaches shouldn’t have tried to lose the game. I think the game officials tried to help them. The state officials did what they should’ve done by punishing them.
    2. If this happened to me then i would try to tell someone so that i could win the game because that was a important game to win.

  22. 1. I believe that the coaches as soon as they saw it happening the should have called a time out and get their players together, the players shouldn’t have even done that if they wanted to play, and that the officials are correct on how they handled it.
    2. I wouldn’t do it if I love the sport I’m not gonna throw it no matter what happened.

  23. 1. I feel it was a bad decision on both the players and the coaches side because even though you didn’t want to play the championship you should try you best. The state did the right thing and the coaches needed to be punished for trying to purposely lose the game.
    2. If this happened to me I would have played the game the best I could and tell a higher authority what was happening because it was wrong.

  24. 1. I think it was it was a very unsportsmanlike for both teams to do what they did.
    2. I think if it were me in the situation I would do what my team and coach wanted me to, but I wouldn’t feel good about my actions.

  25. 1. I think it is embarrassing for the players and the coaches for both teams. The officials should have stopped the game immediately and pulled both coaches over to tell them that if they keep playing like that, neither team will make the playoffs.
    2. I would argue with the coach and tell him that I am not playing that way. I would hope that the rest of my teammates would understand and play at a high level with me.

  26. 1. In my mind I can’t understand why you would want to purposely lose. I know from my stand point I want to play the best of the best. I don’t even know what was going through the coaches head to even allow that to happen.
    2. I would go play my hardest I always want to win I don’t swallow losing to well.

  27. 1. I really wouldn’t judge the state officials or the game officials. I’d most likely judge the coaches it was disappointing to the players making them have to know try their hardest. The fact the coaches didn’t really have faith for the players is saddening

    2. If this were to happen to me I would be furious. We got all the way here just to lose would make me irritated i would try my best to keep pushing to win.

  28. 1. I think the coaches look very immature asking their players to lose the game. I agree with how the officials handled the situation. If they weren’t going to try then they should not play.
    2. I would talk to m coach, and then if they didn’t comply I would still try my best. There is no reason to purposefully lose if you have to play them regardless if you win or lose.

  29. 1. I think it is really embarrassing from everyone’s standpoint. If I was the ref I would call that game because it’s not right for them to try and lose the game on purpose. The coaches should be ashamed.

    2. I would never try to lose a game on purpose. If the coach tried to make me I would’t play. That is not right at all.

  30. 1. I feel like the coaches and refs should have talked about what was going on and stopped whatever was preventing either team to win. The sportsmanship was terrible and should not have gotten to the level it was allowed.
    2. If I was in a situation where my team was trying to throw the game, I would tell them that it isn’t right and if they want to do that than they shouldn’t be a part of the team. Being a part of a team means working together and to compete to reach our team goal (like winning).

  31. 1. I think it isn’t right for the players to go about the game like that. Even if both coaches told the team to “throw the game” the players should step up and do what’s right. What if the team actually tried, won the district, then went to beat the defending state champs and win a state title.

    2. I wouldn’t let that happen under any circumstances, it is a form of complete embarrassment and is wrong. If the coach told me to throw a game I would no doubt tell him there is no chance it’s happening.

  32. 1. I think that it’s an embarrassment for both the coaches, players, and the sport of basketball as a whole. I think the officials should have gotten a handle on situation before it came to the point it did. Playing a game as they did is not competition whatsoever and should not be allowed.
    2. Deliberately lose a game? Are you kidding, there’s no shot I would want to deliberately lose a game to make the road to the championship easier.

  33. 1. I think its embarrassing for the players and coaches for both teams. The fact that each team was going to give in and not compete and do it right is awful. The officials should have stopped the game immediately, and called someone with more power to access the situation. The officials with more power handled it perfectly. Banning both teams for being losers is exactly what needed to happen.
    2.There is no way i could throw a game. Thats just not me, i am a competitor. If everyone was on board about losing the game on purpose i would definitely try to fight it, but if nobody budged i would have to be a team player.

  34. 1.) The players and coaches are definitely in the wrong. The coaches should have stopped the game immediately instead of letting the players run the game. I believe the state officials did the right thing and the players deserved their punishment.

    2.) If I were ever in this situation I would not play the game and tell the coach how I feel about the situation.

  35. 1.) if the coach maybe would’ve done things better or different things would’ve been better
    2.) i wouldn’t know what to say, or i’d probably just sit out the rest of the game.

  36. I believe the coaches and players should be ashamed and deserved their punishment the way they got it. I it was up to me as a player I would beg my coach to let us smash the other team if they were trying to lose just to embarrass hem.

  37. I believe the coaches and players should be ashamed and deserved their punishment the way they got it. I it was up to me as a player I would beg my coach to let us smash the other team if they were trying to lose just to embarrass hem.

  38. 1.I think its dumb they were fined Its stupid because they only train them they dont play its their choice.

    2. I wouldnt say anything. I would leave the team though.

  39. I would judge the coaches harder than the students because they are the leaders and they guide the team to success. The state and game officials were firm, but right in their decision to ban them from playing because it created unequal advantages.

    As a player, I would decide to part ways with the team because it would cost me so much in the end, rather than to face the music as of now.

  40. I do not agree with the coaches they taught the players a wrong way to play the game and it was unsportsman like.2) If i as a player i would not have listened to the coach.

  41. 1. The coaches, and players were out of line, and let their community down, because their communities wanted to see them win.

    2. If I wouldn’t listen to the coach, because a win is always better than a loss.

  42. 1.The coaches and players should be ashamed and embarrassed and get whatever their punishment they get.

    2. I would play the game how its suppose to be played. I would tell them that i didn’t get on the basketball team to lose. Try to score as much points as possible. Tell them if they don’t want to try at least give the ball to someone who actually does.

  43. The coaches should have never asked for their team to deliberately lose a game. If that were me I would have played my best on that court as I could no matter what. Their punishments were reasonable. The teams would learn to use integrity correctly after this lesson.

  44. The coaches should have never asked for their team to deliberately lose a game. If that were me I would have played my best on that court as I could no matter what. Their punishments were reasonable. The teams would learn to use integrity correctly after this lesson. To both schools who played (didn’t play) .

  45. The coaches should have never asked for their team to deliberately lose a game. If that were me I would have played my best on that court as I could no matter what. Their punishments were reasonable. The teams would learn to use integrity correctly after this lesson. To both schools who played (didn’t play) . It is a good thing that I read this blog. Great story!

  46. If I were them I would go out there and kick there butts and never stop trying. I would be mad at my coach for having us lose.

  47. When you have coaches that are willing to teach you new thing you should never doubt them and just learn from them. If I were a player I would want to go out and beat them because I never doubt my coach and I don’t want them to doubt me.

  48. 1. I think the coaches were unprofessional and shouldn’t have told their players to do that, but I can’t blame the players for listening to their coaches. Especially out of fear of being punished by their coaches. I think the officials did the right thing by fining and banning them, and I would’ve done the same thing.
    2. If I was in this situation I would still play to the best of my ability and tell the coach as well as the team, that I’m not throwing the game.

  49. 1. I believe that the coaches should have never put the players in that position. It showed very poor leadership skills on their part and they should be punished for it. I think the officials did the right thing by banning them and fining them, so hopefully they learn a lesson and don’t deliberately try to lose again.
    2. If I was in this situation as a player, I would voice my opinion and tell the coaches it is the wrong thing to do. Why wouldn’t we try our best and potentially beat the team who previously won the championship? I understand that the coaches may not like what I have to say and could get me off the team, but I would rather get kicked off the team for doing the right thing then stay on a team that exhibits poor leadership and integrity.

  50. 1. I think it was a reasonable choice. Mistakes are made to give lessons afterwards.
    2. If I were a player, I’d accept the consequences. It’d just be more experience for me to learn not to make the same mistake again.

  51. 1. I agree what kind of coach would tell there students to lose. It shows bad message to the team.

    2. If I was in this situation I would tell the coach no and that we will play the game as hard as we can and whatever happens, happens

  52. 1. I realize that I provided a one-sided persuasive argument here. How would you judge the actions of the coaches? The players? The game officials? The state officials? The administrations of the schools?
    Everyone did their part and played well during the whole game, all the players were determined to win, and that’s what they did.

    2. If you were ever in this situation as a player, how would you handle it? What if the coaches and/or other players wanted to “lose” the game? What would you do? What would you say?
    If the coachers or players wanted to lose the game, that is not the right mindset, everyone should always want to win, no matter what kind of game you are playing.

    1. 1. about how a team got in trouble for stalling on going against a very good time
      2. I’d disobey the coach and try my best to score and play the game fair. “Its better to try our hardest then not to”

  53. i think the legal made a good disision by bannding both team i think it was wrong for them to basiklly cowerd out and ruin the game of basketball

  54. Their coaches ended up telling their team to lose on purpose so they would end up vs. the state champs. This is the opposite of integrity.

  55. This story does not display integrity. Why would a team want to lose on purpose just to not play a certain team. I have never experienced or heard of a team trying to lose.

  56. I agree. I agree because you push a team to be the best that they can be then deliberately ask your team to lose on purpose. If someone told me to lose a basketball game on purpose i would look at them weird and be confused because that is going against everything that basketball was made for. I understand letting someone win to be nice but in all reality it’s not like that and no everyone is going to let you pass.

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