Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Had this discussion recently...

You are a high school principal. Two kids come in for the same infraction (perhaps minor, like running in the halls; perhaps major, like alcohol or drug possession).

Do you differentiate the punishment for the two kids?

I said no, and a fellow official had this response:

"Do you treat all coaches the same?"

My response didn't come out clearly then. I developed it on the way home. Ain't that always the case?

Anyway, do I treat all coaches the same?

As far as rule enforcement, yes.

Let's take the coaches' box as an example.

I go into a game between Loudmouth Butthead High School and Good Guy High School. LBHS has a coach who I know, from experience, is a bad guy. GGHS has a coach who is calm, classy, and who I think I'd enjoy hanging with.

What do I do if LBHS' coach steps outside of the box? I warn him.
If he does it again? I sternly warn him.
If he does it again? Technical foul. Even if he has been nice the whole time.

What do I do if GGHS' coach steps outside the box? I warn him.
If he does it again? I sternly warn him.
If he does it again? Technical foul. Period.

"But BloggingRef," my fellow official says. "The A students get treated differently. They've earned it. That's the way the world works."

Not as far as rule enforcement goes.

To be sure, I would treat the coaches differently in some non-rule-related ways. For example, if GGHS' coach talks to me, I will listen a lot more attentively and seriously than I will listen to LBHS' coach. And as far as how long I'll let him go before showing him my palm...well, there's going to be a difference there, too. But that's a decision I get to make.

I don't get to make decisions about which participants get to follow which rules. We can't ignore hard and fast rules some times and enforce them other times on the basis of what we think of the rulebreakers. That'd be like letting the kid who helps up an opponent handcheck at will while calling every handcheck on his opponent who rolled his eyes at the official.

Not only is this selective rule enforcement an injustice, but it gives the loudmouths a legitimate gripe against the official. "How come he gets to step out of the box but I don't?" Believe me, I am NOT going there. Ever. My fellow official can go there if he wants, and when the coach gets on him for being unfair, he'll be right.

So when that kid is in the principal's office and about to be punished, and she says "But I'm a straight-A student! Cut me a break!"...

Kid, we like you and appreciate you, but to be fair, we have to enforce the rules for everyone.

Kids, players, and coaches all will respect us more for that.

Do I treat all coaches the same? As far as rules go, I do, and we all should.


At 6:25 AM, Blogger Joe said...

I think one of the things you're pointing to here is the importance of communicating which rules are hard and fast (no stepping out of the box, no drugs in school) and which ones are necessarily judgement calls (no arguing, no running in the halls).

Because this is how the world really works... sometimes, being an upstanding community member gets you some slack, and sometimes it doesn't. And figuring out which scenario you're in is a critical social skill. For kids, coaches, and CEOs alike.

As you say, though, if the judges don't communicate what those lines are, they necessarily lose their legitimacy.

At 6:32 AM, Blogger Blogging Ref said...


Well said, probably better than I did.



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