Last month the nation was captivated by the story of the Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team from Chicago that was striped of their accomplishments because of the mistakes of a few adults. In my blog post about the story (view here) I explained why the kids should not have been punished for the actions of a few adults that got caught cheating. An important lesson for the kids was to recognize that cheating is unacceptable and never worth the punishments.
This week a similar situation occurred with the Narbonne Gauchos high school girls’ basketball team in Southern California. This wasn’t a case of cheating, but rather a violation of a conference rule that states that a team must wear only their school colors.
Scott Simon who covered the story for NPR explained that the lady Gauchos wore pink on their uniforms in honor of “Play 4 Kay,” the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association cancer awareness program.
The LA City Section Commissioner John Aguirre originally decided to punish the whole team by kicking them out of the championship game. But last week Victoria Sanders, the head coach of the Gauchos, pleaded to Aguirre that she should be punished, not the girls.
“If you’re going to punish someone, punish me. I’ll take it. Tell me I can’t coach the game, but don’t take it away from the girls.”
Just like the Jackie Robinson West baseball team, the coaches and team officials should have been the ones punished for their mistakes. The lady Gauchos did nothing wrong. The girls simply put on the uniforms that were given to them and they played well enough to earn a spot in the championship game.
Only a few days after Sanders’ plea, a panel from the LA City Section decided to accept her offer. They explained, “to meet the spirit of the rule and place kids first,” the panel suspended coach Sanders for the rest of the season, but will allow the Narbonne Gauchos to play in the championship game.
In the end the correct decision was made. The one responsible for breaking the rule was punished.
Aguirre was skeptical to leave this case alone just because they were supporting a cancer awareness program. He recognized that the team was supporting a great cause but enforcing the rule was just as important to set an example for the girls.
Simon wrote that there is a reason that rules exist, especially in high school sports. “Abiding by rules, even if you dispute them, is part of what high school sports is supposed to teach students.” High school is a critical time to educate youth on the importance of their actions. If someone breaks the rules, there will be consequences.
That was the message that the Aguirre and the district panel wanted to make clear. “This is what the rule tells me,” Aguirre said. “I’m going to be consistent.”
The Little League International Charter/Tournament Committee should take note of how this situation was handled by the LA City Section. They took action by punishing those that deserved it. But they were able to present a clear stance that breaking rules will not be tolerated.
The Narbonne Gauchos girls lost last night to Palisades 60-56 in the championship game.
Regardless of the game results, hopefully all the young ladies have learned a valuable lesson.