By Teddy McCrann, ’23
In recent years, the reputation of youth sports as a fun and enjoyable experience for kids has been tarnished by overly aggressive coaches and a focus on winning at all costs. These types of coaches value performance over development and, either directly or indirectly, have influenced their players to demonstrate poor sportsmanship. An example of this type of behavior was seen in a Connecticut high school girls basketball game this past January, where Sacred Heart Academy, under coach Jason Kirck, beat their opponent by a whopping 88 points in a 92-4 win. As a result of this game, Kirck was given a one-game suspension for demonstrating poor sportsmanship and “disrespecting” the opponent, Lyman Hall High School. In my opinion, Kirck fully deserved the suspension after emphasizing the negatives of youth sports.
Many can argue that Lyman Hall High School’s team was simply not evenly matched with Sacred Heart and deserved to lose, similar to many professional sports teams that fail to perform and lose by significant margins. Although this mindset is relevant to the situation, the fact that this is youth sports and not professional provides a different outlook on the suspension of Kirck. No high school basketball score should have a point differential of 88 points, as this type of result can be avoided even if the teams are unevenly matched through a program the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference calls “Class Act.” This voluntary program educates coaches on how to manage high school games and scores in a manner that is respectful to the other team. According to Newsweek, Sacred Heart is not involved in this program. This is the first sign that supports the suspension of Kirck, as he and his program have made no effort to uphold sportsmanlike ideals and behaviors during games.
Additionally, it was reported that Kirck and his team were still running fast breaks in the fourth quarter on long outlet passes. Fast breaks are when a basketball team “pushes” the ball up the court and increases the tempo of the game, ultimately looking to score more. At this point toward the end of the game, Sacred Heart had to have been winning by 60 or more points, which is ridiculously out of reach for the other team. Kirck had no regard for slowing the game down and respecting Lyman Hall.
While society has become more coddled in recent years, and more people are cautious of not treating younger kids and teenagers too harshly, it is still important to allow kids to have fun while playing sports and especially important to teach beneficial life lessons in the process. Allowing your players to “disrespect” and beat down another team on the court or field is not teaching these important life lessons, and will actually inspire a whole new generation of coaches who take their jobs way too seriously. By now, Coach Kirck has served his suspension and hopefully learned from his mistake, but the debate over whether certain youth coaches take it too far will be prevalent for many years to come.