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FAIR OR FOUL: WHAT COACHING TACTICS ARE IN THE SPIRIT OF THE GAME? BY AL FREEMAN, BOYS SOCCER COORDINATOR
Especially around playoff time, the book of coaching ethics get down sized to a pamphlet for a number of coaches. So, it is fair to ask--What is going on?

I witnessed a sportsmanship nightmare at the State championships not too long ago. Two teams were battling in a semi-final match. In the first overtime, a fullback from one of the teams, dove and hand-deflected a sure game winning goal from going in. The referee properly awarded a PK to the offensive team and expelled the back, who was lustily cheered by his team and his fans. The PK was missed and even though they were a man down, the back's team went on to win in the next overtime.

After the contest, he was mobbed by his teammates and given a heroe's salute. Of course, he sat out the state championship, but his team won anyway.

In the months following the game, coaches were evenly split about the player's actions. Many applauded his quick thinking. When asked about the questionable sportsmanship, the reply was.....but they would have lost. Some well-regarded high school and college coaches espoused that view.

As an observer on the sidelines during many sectionals, intersectionals and state championships, I have watched coaches when their teams were ahead late in a match continually substitute players to use clock. Is that within the spirit of the game?

Shirt pulling is illegal and the rules clearly state that it can be a yellow card and possibly a red card if the offense occurs in a go-for -goal situation. Yet, it is not unusual for players to employ the tactic when beaten claiming that it is less injurious than a "professional foul." The inference is that if you can't tackle the ball cleanly, then do what you have to do.

To be fair, there are many coaches that have to re-train their athletes to play within the spirit of the rules. The athletes have been taught by one coach or another to put winning as the only priority.
In the playoffs, when the mantra is "one and done," there is that temptation to took past the rules to the prize. Hopefully, as we enter the playoff season, coaches and players complet fairly AND play to win. They are NOT mutually exclusive propostions.
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