By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA
After a very close loss, an NCAA Division I basketball coach proclaimed, “We’re not in this and I don’t believe in moral victories.” The winner of the five-point game was a nationally ranked top-five team and the losing team was not ranked and was a visitor in an extremely difficult environment.
The game was only decided in the last few seconds and was extremely well played by both teams. Despite the disparity of talent and being in a hostile arena, the losing team gave a great effort and probably played its best game of the season.
Why can’t you be proud of your players and be happy with their effort and improvement? You should! Of course, on the Division I level, winning does matter. Filling the seats in the arena, securing TV contracts, working for a March Madness berth and potential donations from rabid alumni do necessitate wins. And major college coaches are paid huge salaries to amass winning seasons.
In high school athletics, however, the concept of education-based athletics should apply. While preparing and striving to win is important, the development of student-athletes has to be the most important outcome. And this means that moral victories are not only acceptable, but should be used as a method of teaching and learning lifelong lessons.
Even though you didn’t win an important game doesn’t mean that you didn’t gain anything because if a loss is handled properly, your players and team may have accomplished a great deal.
Following are a few items that should be considered.
In connection to the concept of moral victories, extraordinary efforts and improvement of the athletes provide hope. There is something to look forward to and the next game can be a victory. And education-based athletics should be positive, nurturing and the basis for hope.
Obviously, coaches and athletes should prepare and strive to win. However, unlike the pros and major colleges, high school athletics also has greater objectives. Winning at these highest levels of athletics is necessary in order to make a profit through attendance, TV contracts and donations from alumni.
In high school athletics, moral victories and the gains and lessons learned along the way are the essence of education-based athletes. Unlike the pros and major college programs, winning is not the only or ultimate goal for high school programs. Embrace and use moral victories to teach and guide your athletes!
Dr. David Hoch recently retired as the athletic director at Loch Raven High School in Towson, Maryland (Baltimore County). He assumed this position in 2003 after nine years as director of athletics at Eastern Technological High School in Baltimore County. He has 24 years experience coaching basketball, including 14 years on the collegiate level. Hoch, who has a doctorate in sports management from Temple University, is past president of the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association, and he formerly was president of the Maryland State Coaches Association. He has had more than 350 articles published in professional magazines and journals, as well as two textbook chapters. Hoch is a member of the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee.