Winning Isn’t the Only Thing After All In the first section of this chapter, we explored the “win at all cost” model represented in sport today, but there are stories that emerge every so often that demonstrate how coaches and athletes can still embrace the honourable side of competition. Such was the case in 2008 when the Central Washington University Wildcats softball team played host to Western Oregon University. Before the start of their double-header, Western Oregon was one game ahead of Central Washington in the standings for the Great Northwest Athletic Conference race. After losing the first matchup, Central Washington needed to win the second game to ensure that their playoff hopes remained intact. When Sara Tuchol sky stepped up to the plate in the second inning for what could be her final at-bat as a college athlete, she performed a feat that she had never achieved in her 4 years of collegiate ball. A 0.153 hitter for the year, Tucholsky hit a three-run home run and began sprinting toward first base. In her excitement, she strode to first base as she looked up to watch the ball clear the center field fence, causing her to miss the bag and tear her anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. She was able to crawl back to first base, but because rules specify that a player must be able to advance around the bases unassisted from teammates, Tucholsky was at risk of having a substitute runner replace her at first causing her home run to be replaced. As the head coach and umpire considered the team’s options, Mallory Holt man, the first baseman for the Western Oregon team, offered to have her teammates carry Tucholsky around the bases for the score. The rules specified that a player must be unassisted by teammates to advance, but there appeared to be no such stipulation when it came to the opposing team assisting an injured player. Holt man recruited her shortstop teammate Liz Wallace to assist her, and together they picked up Tucholsky and advanced her around the diamond, pausing at each base to ensure that she was able to touch the bag as specified in the rules. After the game, Holt man was quoted as saying, “In the end, it is not about winning and losing so much…. It was about this girl. She hit it over the fence and was in pain, and she deserved a home run.” Western Oregon went on to win the game 4–2 and eliminated Central Washington from playoff contention, but both teams learned a valuable lesson about the integrity that sport can produce. Acts of sportsmanship like this are often overshadowed by more unsavoury acts by coaches and players. For example, at the conclusion of the final track event that cost his team the conference title, a head coach recently approached the officials, noting that the athlete had been wearing a friendship bracelet thus violating established rules prohibiting jewellery. The athlete was disqualified, and team points were stripped, causing the team to lose its conference title.
1. How difficult would it be for you to perform a similar act for an opponent?
2. Take yourself out of the context of a softball team. Would any of your coaches have allowed you to perform such an act if it meant the possibility of losing?
3. What do the actions of these players say about the coach–athlete relationships?