Simply Winning a Game or Taking it Too Far?

By Colleen D.

Every athlete at one point in his or her life has experienced defeat.  Losing helps a child develop just as much as winning does.  Losing teaches youth how to be sportsmanlike, teaches them to get in the gym and work on their skills, and it also teaches them how to accept that they lost and to “take it on the chin” and not make excuses.

Everyone has lost in his or her life, but can you say everyone has lost by 91 points?  Not only did Western Hills, a team in the Texas high school football league lose by 91 points but they actually lost 91 to 0.  They did not score one point in an entire football game.   The coach from Aledo High school who won the game is now being accused of bullying by some parents who witnessed the defeat.

According to ABC news, “Tim Buchanan, head coach of Aledo’s team, told ABC News that this is not the first time the team has drastically outscored an opponent, and that he needed to keep his starters on the field to prepare for the playoffs”

But isn’t it possible to prepare your team by giving your starters more repetitions in practice rather than leaving them on the field for the entire game when you’re leading my a significant amount?  Sport has the opportunity to foster youth development in very positive ways.  I do not that winning by 91 points teaches anything to the players on the winning team either.  It is important to compete and, yes, winning is important.  However, I do not think winning by that much and keeping your best players on the field help foster youth into being sportsmanlike individuals.  Giving other youth the chance to go out onto the field and play will allow the starters to change roles and have to cheer their teammates on while the bench players have the opportunity to play and prove themselves to the coach.

Also, Western Hills athletes most likely did not develop in a positive way either.  Yes, learning how to take a lose is important when you are young so you know how to handle it when you are older.  But losing by 91 points is not a loss, it is a beating.  And this is unfair for the players who put countless hours of training in every week to get better.

Elaine Raakman and colleagues (2010), wrote an article called, The Development of a Typology of Abusive Coaching Behaviours Within Youth Sport. She states that young athletes who have experienced coaches who neglect their players, speak down to their players, and are aggressive harm youth in a way that is not fully understood at this time.  Coach Buchanan neglects his other players by keeping his starters in when they are up by 90 points. He seems to not only care about winning, but also running up the score to make the other team feel worthless.

Good for whoever decided to charge this coach with bullying because the way I see it, Coach Buchanan not only bullies other teams by running up the score, but he also bullies is own team by being neglectful.

For additional Reading:

Huston, T. (2013). Texas High School Football TeamAccused For Bullying after 91-0 Rout. Brett Bart, Retrieved from

Raakmam, E., Dorsch, K., & Rhind, D. (2010). The development of a typology of abusive coaching behaviours within youth sport. International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 5(4), 503-515.

Stebner, B. (2013). Texas High School Coach Accused of Bullying After 91-0 Win. Daily News.  Retrieved from

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7 Responses to Simply Winning a Game or Taking it Too Far?

  1. ashleylegresley says:

    Ashley LeGresley
    Parents preach to their children, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s how you play the game that counts.” This is something my parents have ingrained in me since I was little and I plan to pass onto my children when the time comes.
    I have been involved in sports my entire life and there have been times in my “sports career” where I have been on a team that was considered to be “stacked”. Although we won every game, we always envoked the mercy rule as to not embarass other teams and players. This is hard on adults let alone youth that are trying to develop confidence and self-esteem.
    On the other hand, this summer I was on a lob ball team where we only won one game all season. Don’t ask how bad we were, we were BAD. Most other teams would lend us players and even still would envoke the mercy rule for us. We didn’t need to run up the score, we knew how bad we were, and afterall, this was supposed to be for fun. However, there was one team that we always dreaded playing as they always ran up the score.They were good, really good. I am sure every player could be on the Toronto Blue Jays team. Each could hit over the fence, catch ANYTHING, throw the ball like a rocket, and run like the professionals. Our team, if we had 4 up in an inning at bat, we were doing good. It usually ended up being three up and three down. Each inning 5 of their players would get up to bat, and we’d have 5 hits over the fence, meaning 5 homeruns. We’d get up to bat, and as I said earlier, 3 would go up, and 3 would either strike out or if they hit the ball would be caught or tagged out. This happened every inning for the full 7 innings. Games were short and never any fun. The other team was there to win and to run our team into the ground.
    As someone who enjoys sports whether winning or losing, this really put a damper on those games. I literally had to drag myself to them as I knew we would be slaughtered and we were never beat by 91 points. I can only imagine what the losing team felt like as they left the field.
    I hope that Coach Buchanan is held accountable for his actions. He is supposed to be a role model for these children and by running up at score like that, what is he teaching them?
    I also think that the parents of that team should be ashamed of themselves for letting this go on. When the score was up to a reasonable amount, why didn’t they step in? I know if my child were on his team, I would have pulled him/her off the field to show them that this kind of winning is wrong. If enough parents had done this, then the game wouldn’t have continued and the other team could have left with some dignity. By standing there and letting this continue, it only shows to the players that they condone this type of behavior.
    Losing is a reality. We can’t excel at everything, and we can’t win everytime. We must teach our children that playing a good game means playing your hardest and your best whether you win or lose, and this is an asset that not only applied in sports, but in day-to-day life.

  2. First off, congrats on getting reblogged, that’s pretty cool!

    Great blog Coleen and an awesome article to pick. As an athlete myself I have experienced this first hand and as it may not seem as bullying when you are on the winning end. However, when being on the losing end, you feel the type of tension that perhaps there was bullying behavior. A couple years back when I was representing New Brunswick in club nationals for soccer we were playing against a tough Quebec squad who murdered us 11-0; which is a crazy high scoring for soccer. And during that game the coach didn’t once make a sub till the last 10 minutes of the game. It felt as if they were trying to embarrass us as a team and soccer in New Brunswick.

    When a team is up by that much its demoralizing for not just the players and coaches, but the spectators as well, as there becomes some sympathy for the team. In that scenario, I believe It isn’t good for the teens youth development in both winning and losing. Winning by that much it’s showing that they don’t respect the mercy rule and all they care about is winning and not respect for their opponent. in that case the coaches are teaching their players that winning is everything. when you are on the losing end its hard for the players to be positive in their performance going forward. I know first hand when we lost to them I was embarrassed and I felt incapable of playing at that level.

    Adam Grant

  3. ahaiart says:

    Great article Colleen.
    I agree with your standpoint and the other comments by the students. However, since I would be only restating what has already been said, I am going to play the devils advocate to bring another angle.
    First of all, I have been very fortunate to have only personally experienced this game scenario once. During my high school sporting career, my team has always been close to the same level as other teams. Although, there was one game where we had played a team that was much better than us. I was playing with my academy team in the states and had travelled across the country to play in a showcase. The team was on another level and we ended up losing 6-0. We were very upset and not happy with how the game went.
    From what Colleen has stated in her blog, it seems like our team and the other participants did not take it the same way as this high school football team. Of course we were upset with our play, but we deserved the score we were handed. We were not as good as the other team and they were there to showcase their skills like any athlete would want to do. In high school, you are looking to impress scouts and want to play your best throughout the whole game. The players that were on the field for the other team wanted to prove themselves to certain college scouts that they had been talking to earlier. This was their time to prove that they deserved a scholarship. If it is done in a respectful manner, meaning no taunting the other team, I believe athletes should work as hard as possible and the team should play their best game all the time.
    Another factor we should look at is their age and context. The athletes are high school football players. I can imagine this is not the first time they have lost a game. At this age, players should know that losing is part of the game. I understand that losing by this much is a different story, but these are all experiences that we should learn from. Also, these high school football players are playing in Texas, the heart of american football. High school football there is very competitive. Many of these players will not only play top collegiate level, but will move on to play professionally. Some of these players will enjoy playing time on a bigger level, as many of the others will sit on the bench for their respecting college and professional teams. Thus, high school is a great time to learn that elite sports are not always fair in terms of playing time and holding back when playing a lesser team.
    Again, I took this standpoint to create more thoughts on the issue. I hope people take these into account when reading another article.
    Great work Colleen.
    Alex Haiart

  4. daleymatt says:

    Matthew Daley
    Good Post and very interesting topic. I totally agree with your points but saying that I also have different mind-set thinking about it.
    Almost every athlete who has played sports growing up has been defeated at one time. Some may have been worse than others. If you grow up in sports and never experience an embarrassing defeat then in my opinion you will not find the competitiveness inside of you. In my opinion, when you lose terribly to a team, the next time you play them you are going to try so much harder in the hope to have payback. We learned about resiliency and how to overcome adversity. Losing 91-0 to example would be considered adversity. Some players may quit after a loss like that. Others will look at what happen decide it will never happen again.
    I have played close to every single sport growing up. I have been on both sides of these situations. I remember when I played goalie in hockey. It was first game in the net and we lost the game 23-0. I was too young to think that the other team may have been running the score up but they sure didn’t lay off the pressure or stop trying hard. After that game I went to my parents and was so upset. I thought I was the worst goalie in the world. My parents are the ones who changed my mind. They did not let me quit or even stay upset. Instead they gave me a speech on how I will get better and I will work harder and I will not let that happen again. We played the same team later on in the year and we beat them 1-0. Our entire team improved throughout the year and think that the embarrassment of the loss helped all of us. I am not saying that running the score up is the right thing to do because I agree that it is wrong but in some cases it can have a positive effect. This also depends on the age of the athletes.
    I know that when I was in grade 9, we played the Prince Edward Island Provincial basketball team and we beat them by the score of 112 to 12. We did not run the score up. Our coach even implemented a rule at half time that we were not allowed to dribble the ball. We played our bench players the entire fourth quarter. Our coach felt bad for the team we were playing because they were so bad but he also didn’t want to tell us to stop playing. After the game, I was surprised when the PEI team coach came over and thanked our coach. He said that he thought we played very good and that it will help his team in the long run.
    I do not think that running up to score is right and it should not happen at young ages. This can cause negative effects on youth and turn them away from sports. As we get older, winning starts to become the only thing we want to do. When winning becomes so important, these types of incidents will happen when you meet a superior team. In my opinion, you cannot get upset about defeat but learn from it and work very hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again. As adults and parents we have to teach our children to learn from the incidents and how to react positively.

  5. b6m9 says:

    The fact that the coach kept his first string players on the entire game shows his lack of compassion for the other team. If he was to put himself or his team in a situation like this he may realize the negative effect it has on an individual at a young age. By not allowing his other players to participate shows them in my opinion that they are just fillers on the team and have no real hope of getting into a game. The coach does not have empathy for the youth on the other teams and does not care about self esteem or self efficacy. As a coach on the losing side I would have showed up the winning coach by pulling my team off the field. I think coaches should have to take sensitivity training workshops to make sure they safeguard youths feelings when it comes to blowing teams away in relation to developing skills which should be left to practices. As a youth on this team I would be looking for another team to play on to help me develop skills and get into some game situations to help me prepare for future sporting opportunities.

    By Dave M

  6. sarahholt4 says:

    Great post Colleen!
    I don’t know why some coaches are so set on letting their players believe that losing is not an option. They know themselves that everyone loses at least once, if not more! I agree with the quote that Ashley stated -“Winning isn’t everything, it’s how you play the game that counts.” My parents also enforced this idea to me when I was growing up, because they knew that the teams I played on were not going to win every single game that I played. In my own experience, during soccer season, my team was in the top of the league, but when we played the worst team in the league, we always seemed to play to their level. We went in with the mindset that we had already won the game, and played terrible. Vise versa if you play a good team, (sometimes) it makes you want to do better against this team and possibly have a great game. I honestly think that it is good for kids to lose some games, even if they get “creamed”. It shows them what they need to work on as a team and can only do better from there. I know when I was younger, not everybody had to be played in sports, and the same kids always got to play the whole game. In my opinion, if the coach knows that a certain child is not going to get played, why even bother taking them. But I do know that now through the sports system, (for basketball at least,) every child has to play and they each get the same amount of playing time no matter how bad the score is. They also have involved a mercy rule, which I think is appropriate!
    Sarah H.

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