Recently Read: Sportsmanship (?) and the real purpose of coaching

In the last few years, there have been some high profile “assists” at the end of races, including last year’s Division I championships. The debate over these assists reignited when an Iowa runner was disqualified for helping another runner across the line long after he had finished. The runner was not his teammate. Twitter exploded with arguments that it was sportsmanship, while others argued that it was unnecessary. Honestly, I don’t know where I stand on this. As a coach, I would never help my athlete across the line. There are medical professionals there and as happened this weekend, when one of my athletes crossed the line and collapsed, she was scooped up by the officials in the finishing area and I met her in the medical tent. Also as a coach, I’d be pretty upset if one of my runners stopped or slowed her own race to assist another athlete in the last hundred meters of a course or if she ran out of the finishing chute to help someone. Way out on the course? I’d leave it up to her to use her discretion. If someone is in significant danger, no race finish is more important. And neither is a DQ. My impression, however, is that most of these scenarios are athletes who are just bonking. We’ve all been there or at least close. Crawl in, recover and figure out how to race smarter in the future.

What do you think about this? Do you see the proliferation of these assists as an example of sportsmanship? Do you think the Iowa runner should have been disqualified?

My Athletic Director shared this article last week and I thought it just hit the nail on the head 100%. Running is a little different than other sports because in fact, many girls will go on to run as a hobby even if they hang up their spikes. I have never coached with the idea that winning is everything. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I have minimal respect for high burnout (but high win count) programs like Fayetteville Manlius or even programs in the state of Vermont. As I said to an athlete today, when we all back up, the State Meet doesn’t matter. What matters is that we learned to work as a team, to support and push one another and appreciated all the amazing things our bodies can do.

Does this dad/coach nail it? What do you think about the part where he talks about knowing his child could handle the disappointment of missing a penalty kick?

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