An open letter to Superintendent Cheryl Cook, Principal Brad Marcotte, and coaches of Lyndon:
When I moved to Kansas in 2009 I was very happy with the decision. I was excited to come to the Heartland after a Navy career that kept me and my family in big cities. My greatest hope was to raise my boys among the “strong values” that I had heard the Heartland shared with where I was raised in the hill country of central Texas. As a child athlete myself, I feel that a lot of the who I am was forged in my sports years, and influenced heavily by not just my parents but my coaches as well. Honor, integrity, perseverance, and working hard were all concepts I believe were strongly affected by my sports years.
From early on, I was rather frustrated with how sports are treated in this area. While I clearly recognize the importance in the formation of well-rounded men and women, the emphasis placed on sports performance seems markedly unbalanced, with athletes who perform poorly in an academic capacity still allowed to play (in the 60 percent range). I’ve long thought this a very bad message to send.
More recently, I’ve become even more frustrated, disgusted even, over sportsmanship issues. On Dec. 2, 2016, I watched the entirety of the events between Lyndon and MdCV. What was transpiring there is the reason I write this letter, as I feel someone needs to say something about it. To start with, a far outmatched MdCV JV team got to play the Lyndon Varsity team for 3 of 4 quarters even with a blowout score. In the final quarter, the Lyndon JV team got to take the court, and still handily outscored MdCV.
In between was the girl’s Varsity game, which I’ll come back to.
Then was the Varsity vs. Varsity game. In it, I observed:
- A heckle line of students shouting, jeering, cheering, chanting right beside the court. Clearly directed to be there, and a Lyndon staff member was right next to them frequently.
- Full court press from minute 1.
- Lyndon players screaming “ball” 4 inches from another player’s ear.
- Lyndon players sticking hands directly in the face of opposing player (also while screaming ball quickly.)
- 20 points up, screaming in the face of opponents after a basket (followed shortly thereafter by a technical foul.)
- 40 points up, entire home stands erupting after a 3-pointer.
Sportsmanship is defined as: fair play, respect for opponents, and gracious behavior in winning or losing. Digging a little further, gracious is defined as: marked by kindness and courtesy, tact and delicacy. I’m curious which of the above examples the Lyndon administration and athletics staff believe constitutes anything resembling these concepts.
Back to the girl’s game. Anyone notice anything different? Once again, Lyndon outperformed MdCV although it was a much closer competition. No heckle line, no in your face tactics, just good basketball. So the question is why don’t we treat our Varsity girls like our boys? If the first thing that popped into your head about my list is that none of those tactics is illegal or against the rules, you might be part of the problem. I’m not even advocating that any of it BE illegal. We shouldn’t need mercy rules or an extra list of things you’re not allowed to do in order to dictate being a good sport. It should be readily apparent, and a good team will display it. Instead, we’ve gone from not kicking a man when he’s down to kicking, spitting, and then laughing about it.
As a Lyndon athlete father, and a Lyndon and Osage County resident I’m ashamed at the behavior displayed by our team, and frankly the fans as well. With a son coming up through the program, I am not excited about having to undo the petty tactic encouragement that is occurring.
People frequently bemoan the seeming moral slide our country is going through. Often, we blame the cities and people who espouse moral relativism. I see it as far more than that. It’s all the little things that we let go by, that we don’t stand up against and say “That is WRONG!” Our children are actively being encouraged to be poor sports, and the overwhelming response appears to be “but we’re winning!!”
Frankly, I’d rather have a son that knows how to control himself, have good sportsmanship, and lose well and keep trying; than a supposed winner that resorts to petty tactics. I’m sure I’ll be called a poor loser simply for writing this (I have sons on the MdCV team as well). I’ll say right off the bat the Lyndon boys basketball teams are far and away more talented, in better shape, and more competitive in general than the MdCV teams. That’s perhaps the most frustrating part. None of these tactics made a difference in the outcome, not that it would be any better if it did. Lyndon has a LOT of talent and drive, and instead they cheapen their win with these disgusting tactics. It makes all of those championships on the wall look that much more shallow.
If you’ve made it this far, Lyndon Admin, I ask that you reconsider the way we are training our boys, and instead focus on making them better men. Men that know that winning by any means might not actually be a win at all. History is full of passionate, talented people led astray by failing to restrain themselves when they have the upper hand.