What Lesson Do You Have For Me, Coach?

Last night my oldest son, Alexander, played in his first football game in high school as a member of the freshman football team of the Bishop Chatard High School Trojans. I was excited to see how he would do against the freshman football team of the Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School Braves. Alexander's head coach reported to the team during the week of practice leading up to the game that Brebeuf's coaches were claiming that their freshman football team had so few players, it was necessary to bring five members of Brebeuf's JV team to fill out the ranks. This information only inspired Alexander more as he was eager to test himself against some older and more experienced players.

Sitting down in the Chatard bleachers, it was as apparent as a dog on the dinner table that Brebeuf's freshman football team had many more players than advertised. Listening to the talk of some of the parents around me who had programs, there seemed to be a whole lot more JV players than five and they played like it. Brebeuf played a very good game, far above the potential of a freshman team in their first high school game and were able to capitalize on the freshman flaws and beginner's mistakes of the Chatard freshmen. Despite their mistakes, though, Chatard played very well and, finding holes in the Brebeuf defense, fought to a close loss of 34-20.

When I finally talked to Alexander after the game, he reported to me that Brebeuf had canceled the JV game that was scheduled, also, for last night and played their entire JV team against Chatard's freshman team. Alexander was angry, frustrated, and confused by Brebeuf's antics. Why was it so necessary for Brebeuf to win this game? Why would a Catholic school lie and cheat to win? What happened to sportsmanship, fair play, and fun? I had no answer for him other than one given from off the cuff questioning the sizes of their manhoods. Crude, but what is the explanation for such behavior by a Catholic school that wishes to be seen by the public as a premier and exclusive academy devoted to intellectual inquiry and social justice?

Yes, Brebeuf scored more points than Chatard did, but what really did they win? When has beating by all means available a younger and less experienced opponent considered an accomplishment worthy of pride and celebrated? Brebeuf's freshman learned only that they were not up to the challenge and their coaches have no confidence in them, lessons that will lead this group of freshman to one defeat after another. Is this what Brebeuf wants to teach its student athletes? I don't understand the mentality behind this and it is disturbing.

This mentality, however, is not limited to the IHSAA. I have coached in CYO, that is Catholic Youth Organization, football for the past three seasons and have witnessed the extremes to which teams, parents, and coaches will go to win. While I have no direct proof, some of the officiating I have seen had to be the result of absolute negligence on the part of the officials or a paycheck from supporters of one team or another. While complaints have been lodged, the CYO has done nothing. It's all part of the system, it seems. Teams have substituted ringers in key games in order to ensure victory, confident that no one will ever check what they are doing. Some coaches have lost themselves so much in grade school football, that they got drunk after losing a tournament game, then boasted about it afterwards. Parents and school officials have watched coaches yell and scream at third and fourth grade boys who have never played football before and have done nothing. When parents have stood up and said something, they have been relegated to second class status or have become persona non grata.

With all of this happening in the IHSAA and the CYO, the Catholic teams still gather to pray before and after their games and practices, an act that must be meant to teach these young boys that doing whatever you can to win is sanctioned by God or that the true faith of a man is cynicism.

It is not all bad, however. The coaching staff of the Chatard freshman football team earned my undying respect last night. They taught their boys what true dignity, strength, and honor means, lessons these boys need in a world that is increasingly working against Catholic life and faith. I am proud of my son and I could not be happier that he is participating in Chatard's football program.





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