The first time I heard the saying, “If you‘re not cheating, you‘re not trying hard enough” was nearly 2 decades ago when I became involved in coaching Club Hockey. I chuckled at first but soon realized it was NOT about teaching the fundamentals of the game but trying to secure what was perceived as the best talents. Hockey is an expensive sport that includes lots of travel to play top tier teams in the region and nationally if you are good. However, at some point playing little league sport has to be FUN not work. After a few seasons it became apparent the sport was about whose parents could bank roll the team.
As time went on it was the parents that ruined the FUN as they wanted their way and would make sure management knew it was all about their kid(s). Today we call it entitlement by helicopter parents. I call it sour grapes because the truths are exposed about the level of play, especially if its all about winning and not about having FUN. As time passed I picked up the whistle to coach Baseball and Football and soon learned it was not about a competitive balance but who could recruit better or sell traveling to beat the best. The problem is it was NOT the best, just the families that could pay to play in different cities and make playing one sport about as boring as serving pizza, chicken fingers or juice boxes to youngsters. Oh and don’t forget participation medals for all to attend some lame tournament usually played on a holiday weekend.
Many of you may be wondering why this is relevant and the answer is simple, it continues in high school. The fact athletic directors, principals and coaches allow sports to dictate their culture is alarming. Yes many districts are not well funded but at what point do you do the right thing? We are still awaiting that answer as for decades coaches have bought into the statement“If you‘re not cheating, you‘re not trying hard enough”. Basketball has been the subject of debate for years as inner city athletes were brought to the suburbs and eventually became more relevant in football. Now schools are legitimately turning their heads to closed attendance areas to allow talented little leaguers to attend their school. Perhaps it is about winning but maybe it is more about who will donate much needed monies to hang a banner in centerfield or in the rafters of the arena or the end zone of the field. Yes these are the monies needed to pay for transportation, team meals, equipment and trainers. What is lost is the FUN of the sport. The fact is neighborhood kids want to play with one another and not be recruited and have to travel great lengths to play a sport. Also many loose interest in by the time they are 16 especially if they do not get playing time. The focus should be on obtaining an education and the opportunity to advance to college. However, society has placed too much of an emphasis on sports and we are alarmed when kids quit.
Yes they Quit sports, Quit life or Quit giving a darn because they have been told “If you‘re not cheating, you‘re not trying hard enough”. So this attitude probably leads to them living in your basement because the etiquette and fundamentals were not taught by coaches to do their best and academia was not a focal point to have them advance as student athletes. Look at the colleges that have others take athletes tests or homework or even involve others in drug testing. Those same practices trickle down to high school. So being a model citizen might not be taught at a young age as many learn from examples. Anyone remember Barry Bonds?(*)by the HR title for PEDs. Now those designer drugs are readily available in high school. Perhaps he lived by the statement “If you‘re not cheating, you‘re not trying hard enough”.
So the next time a parent or player tells you, hey lets go play at XYZ school, you shoud ask yourself, Am I cheating my family? Will my athlete advance past high school and is it worth lying and cheating for an address all because we want to wear a winning jersey. There are no guarantees in life, but if you are living by the statement “If you‘re not cheating, you‘re not trying hard enough” you are the culture that has placed too much of an emphasis on sports, not academia or what is the best interests of the child.
Choose #Academia1st as it will get you further in life. It is the 60 years of post secondary education that will matter most long term.