Dear Coaches…How do you handle blowouts?

8 Responses to “Dear Coaches…How do you handle blowouts?”

  1. September 23, 2009 at 5:47 PM

    I recently read this article and started to wonder what all you coaches out there think about how to handle a game situation on EITHER end of a blowout. Read the article and let me know what you think. Any real life experiences would be great.


    Coach Tony

    Coach Chad Morris removed his top guns after Lake Travis had built a 35-0 lead over Boerne in the first quarter of Friday night’s football game.

    Cord Woerner pulled his starters at halftime of Marble Falls’ 51-6 victory over Reagan.

    This is standard sportsmanship in high school football, a sport played by kids for school pride and love of the game. Motives are different in the NFL and big-time college football because football is their business.

    The subject came to mind last week after a high school in Hollywood, Fla., defeated county rival Pompano Beach 83-0. The game was such a mismatch, fans from the winning team did not cheer for the last few touchdowns.

    That game struck the nerve of several Central Texas coaches who have been on both ends of lopsided scores.

    Comfort High was ruder than Kanye West at an awards show when it destroyed Lago Vista 77-0 in 2002. Lago Vista coach Alan Haire was outraged when Comfort’s top running back scored a touchdown on the game’s final play, a score intended to pad the star player’s stats.

    While Comfort players giggled among themselves, the Vikings were humiliated as they boarded their bus to go back home. Embarrassing Lago Vista in such a manner was “distasteful,” Haire said, because all coaches should consider a team’s self-esteem before running up the score.

    “Football is about winning and losing, but not at the expense of embarrassing another team,” he said. “There are ways of milking the clock when the game gets out of hand.”

    Most coaches approach blowouts by pulling starters. They want to keep the clock moving by keeping the football on the ground, staying in bounds, and using as much time as possible between plays.

    Seguin coach Jim Carson recalls a game in which his team was losing 32-6 with two minutes to go. The opposing team then faked a punt and ran the ball for a meaningless touchdown.

    “I was miffed and I said so to the opposing coach,” Carson said. “His reply was, ‘Next time, bring a team.’ By the way, he was a friend of mine.”

    In recent years the Austin school district has addressed blowout games by letting the clock run non-stop – with permission from the coach of the losing team – throughout the second half.

    Westlake coach Darren Allman, Jerry Vance of Liberty Hill and Giddings’ Derek Fitzhenry said teams must be careful before pulling players from lopsided games. Backup players, he said, want to shine when they get a chance to play.

    “You stay conservative in play-calling, so that you do not run the score up to an embarrassing number,” Allman said. “It’s difficult at times because you have players on the sideline who deserve a chance to play, and when they get an opportunity, you want them to gain experience moving the ball and getting it in the end zone.”

    Vance said the advent of the spread offense has made coaches more cautious about substituting when teams grab a big lead. There have been new rules that benefit offenses, and successful passing teams can rally quickly

    “We have had some large scores, but never intentionally,” Vance said. “You can’t change what you do. We run the ball. So the question is, do we pass? No. ” You never coach a team not to score. It would be very unfair to put (substitutes) in and say don’t score. You call your base stuff and if they cannot stop that, then it will get out of hand.”

    Fitzhenry, who has had some explosive offenses in Giddings, knows plenty about scores that get lopsided. He agreed with Vance, saying coaches must use caution, as well as common sense, before assuming games are over.

    “If the opponent is explosive and they have guys who have the ability to score quickly, we’ll substitute players if we’re up by 40 in the fourth quarter,” he said.

    As Haire learned seven years ago, not all coaches are that compassionate.

  2. September 23, 2009 at 5:58 PM

    BTW, I’ll leave my opinion on this one til I get a few responses

  3. 3 Eric
    September 25, 2009 at 12:22 PM

    If you are fortunate to be on the winning side of what is beginning to turn into a blow out you should absolutely take your “starters” out and allow your “substitutes” the opportunity to get playing time. In most cases you will not be in blow out situations every game. In the cases of close games many coaches keep the better players on the field longer (for obvious reasons.) As a result meaningful playing time does not present itself for the substitutes. If you truly want to developed the subs, allowing them to play the majority of the time during blow outs is the best training they can get.

    I watched a varsity level basketball game where the home team was losing by 3 times their score. When the 2nd half started the entire 1st team from the visiting side was dressed in warm ups. They never saw another minute of time. The visiting team won by double the home team’s score. A decisive win without embarrassing the other team and subs played half a game. Win-win situation for all because the coach was a class act.

    The situation above involved varsity level sports where winning is a major goal, which is why it is so impressive. Obviously if this were a developmental team the answer would be the same just an easier one to make. Since after all, DEVELOPMENT not WINNING is the major goal when coaching a developmental team. Something that, unfortunately, too many developmental coaches fail to realize.

  4. September 25, 2009 at 1:07 PM

    I wonder what would happen if a coach took out his starters and the game got close? What if the coach who pulled his starters wound up losing the game because of letting up on the other team?

  5. 5 Will
    September 28, 2009 at 7:16 AM

    Having been on the “wrong” side of baseball blow outs during the past two years, I can say first hand that, although it is not particularly fun, it never bothered me too much at the 10 – 12 year old levels. I think the kids forget about it by the time they have their first lick of the post game ice cream.

    After reading some of the above articles, I think I would be more embarrassed to win a game by some of those scores than to lose it. However, “running up” the score is not always preventable as the subs you put in are going to make every effort to prove that they should not be subs. Hey, how about a mercy rule in college and the pros? Nah, I don’t really mean that. Blow outs are goinng to happen. But when you are on the winning side be careful, a good coach has a very very long memory.

  6. September 29, 2009 at 9:37 AM

    Well said, Will. Check out some of these blowouts i found in the news.

    Milwaukee Riverside High School’s football team decimated Pulaski 75-0 last weekend.

    Waunakee stomped all over Baraboo 72-7 the week before.

    The first weekend in September, two teams along our western border, Cochrane-Fountain City and Potosi, both whomped on their opponents, New Auburn and Pecatonica-Argyle, respectively, 60 to Big Fat Zero. And those games are just for starters.

    There have been more blowouts in this state lately than you’ll find in an old tire dump.

    What in the name of Kanye West and Joe Wilson are we teaching our kids? An utter disregard for sportsmanship or civility? A win-at-all-costs attitude and opponents be damned?

    I was certain when I called the schools of the losing teams I would hear tales of abject humiliation.

    In truth, I heard refreshing humility instead. No one complained about the referees. No one complained about the other team. The losers took responsibility for being so bad that their opponents kept scoring even when, it appeared, they were trying their best not to.

    The 75-0 score does appear “outrageous,” said Derek Czekalski, Pulaski’s athletics director.

    “But, in all honesty,” he said, “Riverside was playing their third- and fourth-string players. There are other teams in the city who will run up the score, but not Riverside.” Riverside, he said, was “not trying to stick it to us.”

    Aaron Andres, Baraboo’s athletics director, said essentially the same thing about Waunakee. Waunakee had 18 kids carry the ball, said Andres. Nine of them scored. About the only kid Waunakee didn’t give the ball, it sounds like, was the waterboy.

    The football game, according to Andres, “was just a combination of a team struggling to rebuild, and a team that is there.”

    The Waunakee coaches felt so bad about what happened, Andres also said, that it was “almost like our coaches were consoling their coaches after the game.”

    Blowouts in high school sports have become legend elsewhere in the country in recent years. It’s gotten so bad in Texas that, last winter, one girls basketball team, the Covenant School, beat another, Dallas Academy, 100-0.

    Brian Henning, the principal and athletics director at New Auburn, didn’t deny there might be teams around Wisconsin that don’t call off the dogs. But New Auburn’s Lakeland Conference, he said, “has been extremely good about that sort of thing.”

    New Auburn has been on the receiving end of two blowouts this year (hey, at least they were on the receiving end of something) and in both cases, said Henning, the winners pulled the starters and put the junior varsity in the game early. Wisconsin, we can take heart, isn’t Texas. Nor is it Georgia, where Georgia Tech once infamously shellacked Cumberland College 222-0.

    Anecdotally at least, it does appear that there are more blowouts than there used to be around here. Wade Labecki, the longtime Baldwin-Woodville coach who is now deputy director of the WIAA, said he still remembers a game in the late 1980s that his team won 56-7 — a virtual standoff when you compare it with some of the scores today. The problem in that particular game, though, was that it was already 21-0 before his offense even made it on the field. It’s just hard sometimes, in other words, to take offense.

    There’s already a “mercy rule” that keeps the clock running in the second half if a team is up by 35. Some schools have just gotten so good, it appears, that their lousiest members could be decent college players.

    Unless they end up someplace like Texas, of course. Then they’ll just have to sit in the stands and settle for having learned how to be decent people instead.

    Mike Nichols can be reached at MRNichols@wi.rr.com .

  7. September 29, 2009 at 9:50 AM

    BTW, here’s my take on blowouts.

    If a team or a coach is really looking for an opportunity to make the kids feel good, the “mercy rule” is quite a joke. All it really does is make a group of kids feel inferior and it takes away playing time by ending games prematurely. Having one coach take all of his better players off the field may result in his team getting penalized. After all, once all your better players are gone, you might actually lose the game. It would be a shame for a team to get penalized for trying to do the right thing. So what do you do?

    A potential solution might be this. When the score gets to a certain point, instead of ending the game, perhaps the coaches could get together and agree between them that the game is over but not tell the kids. However, at that point, (let’s use baseball as an example) the winning coach could give an opportunity to a kid who doesn’t pitch or play infield to do just that. The winning team gets to develop players and build confidence and the losing team, instead of going home dejected, can do the same exact thing…build confidence.

    I got this idea during one of my own games.

    As some of you may know, I coach a competitive youth baseball team. During one of our games, we were trying to mix up our lineup during a blowout. We put in one of our lesser used pitchers and mixed up our defense. The other coach was upset that we weren’t doing enough to level off the game and so I asked him if he’d like to do just what I outlined above. It was still early enough in the game that the mercy rule had not taken effect.

    Anyone care to guess at his response?

    He said, “NO! I want a chance to win this game. We’re not going to forfeit!”

    My reply? “OK, coach. Let me get this straight. You want to make sure your kids have a chance to win and so you want my kids to give up their chance to win?”

    Needless to say, we didn’t get very far in the discussion but the point is this. This coach wasn’t interested in developing his kids. He wanted to have his cake and eat it too.

    If level headed coaches take a second to think, there are always ways to act in the best interest of the kids.

    Whadda ya think about that one?

  8. 8 AJ Contento
    October 6, 2010 at 11:39 PM

    Get as many kids into the game as possible if the situation allows it. Unfortunately in the early 1st or second innning, even with a large lead, a game can turn around and you could let the other team back into the game. In competition, the plan is to give the opponent the best you’ve got and in return they should do the same. In a blowout on the loosing end, in youth sports, I have “thrown’ the game and pulled my starters knowing we have no shot to win, again just to get kids playing time or secondary positions makes a big deal to that player. To this date, my #13th kid, who always wanted to catch and never did, was put behind the plate for one inning many years ago, SHE still talk about it today while she is attending a pre-med program at a local college.
    Good Luck Coaches, we make a big impact on the lives we touch. AJ

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