For once common sense prevailed. Late Thursday evening, officials from the Aledo (Texas) school district dismissed the bullying complaint against the town's high school football coaches, hopefully preventing any similar sulking in the future.
In case you missed it, Aledo coach Tim Buchanan became the focal point of a story that gained national attention after the parent of one of the players for last week's opponent, Western Hills, filed a bullying complaint against him.
According to the complaint, the Aledo players conducted themselves with sportsmanship and class in their 91-0 victory, but the allegation stemmed from the parent's belief that Buchanan should have told his players to "ease up and quit playing so hard" once the outcome was decided.
That's the kind of weak mindset produced by youth leagues that don't keep score and hand out "participation trophies" just so kids don't feel bad for losing. One of the greatest lessons sports teaches is how to handle the heartbreak of a tough loss and the bruised ego of getting soundly whipped by a more skilled or better-prepared opponent.
Later in life you may get passed over for a job promotion or realize there are co-workers who are more deserving of a higher salary because they perform better on the job. That leaves you with a decision to either accept and deal with that reality or strive to make yourself a better, more valued employee.
I'm all for sportsmanship, and in most states the second-half running clock or "mercy rule" prevents games from becoming too out of hand. But blowouts have their place as character builders as well, and calling what Aledo's team did "bullying" is ridiculous.
As Texas' top-ranked Class 4A team, averaging 70 points per game, Aledo's first-team offense played just 21 snaps against winless Western Hills and a running clock was used to begin the third quarter, after the halftime score reached 56-0. After his starting running back scored touchdowns on four of his five first-half carries, Coach Buchanan simplified the playbook, used 17 different ball carriers and told his punt returner to fair-catch the ball.
Once the backups are in the game, those kids, who get far less playing time, can't be told to ease up or not try hard. Kids should be encouraged to play their absolute hardest and reach their maximum potential in every area, whether that's athletics or academics.
When this story first reached national news, the only sympathy I felt was for the Aledo players and coaches, who have obviously taken their talent and worked hard enough to become a contender for a state championship, a goal that could be something those kids remember and cherish the rest of their lives. Being told to "ease up and not play so hard" wouldn't help them prepare for the playoffs when they face tougher competition, so thankfully such a complaint quickly was dismissed.
As for the Western Hills players, coaches and parents, whose team is now 0-7, such a loss should be motivation to hit the weight room and film room harder and focus more in practice to improve and make sure that type result isn't repeated.
As a local example, in 1997, following the program's first winning season in 10 years, Boyd-Buchanan tested itself by scheduling powerhouse Tyner in the season opener. The Buccaneers lost 95-3 in a game that certainly bruised some pride.
But rather than complain, the Bucs used that loss as their motivation to get better, and the result is a program that has qualified for the playoffs 15 consecutive seasons, reached at least the quarterfinals 12 times and played for four state championships.
All because instead of bellyaching about being "bullied," Bucs coaches recognized it as a teaching opportunity and turned the situation from an embarrassing loss into the motivation to build one of the area's top programs.
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...