By Randy Bertin
In February, as I sat watching the sports news, I was stunned by the
first headline I saw. It stated, Murry Bergtraum star Epiphanny
Prince Scores 113 points in a high school basketball game today,
setting a new high school single game scoring record. Wow! That
is a pretty amazing featalmost four points for every minute of
the game. As the announcer talked about the new record, all the
attention focused on how wonderful it was. What a great accomplishment.
My thoughts were just the opposite. Society was celebrating 113 points
scored by a high school athlete in a single game with a final score of 137-32. It became clear
to me: Sportsmanship was finally dead in high school and youth
athletics, and this moment was its final blow.
youth sports has suffered many injuries, particularly from fans and
parents. A clear example of this is an incident last year when a
varsity softball coach in Connecticut was beaten by a parent carrying
an aluminum bat because his daughter was benched for missing the
previous game. We have seen it in ice hockey too, as parents are
fighting each other, coaches, and officials.
What makes last weeks
113-point posting particularly disturbing is that in this case, poor
sportsmanship was displayed by a coach, a prominent coach at that. Ed
Grezinsky, the coach of the girls team at Murry Bergtraum High
School, Princes school, is arguably one of the most successful
high school girls basketball coaches in history. How could this
wonderful and experienced coach do this to a team of high school girls?
How could he leave Prince in the game and allow her to
humiliate the other team? The answer is easy: Our high school athletic
culture today is not focused on the purpose of our programs, but rather
on winning and prestige at all costs.
about this mess I wondered, Why do we have high school
sports? What are its founding principles? I, of course, knew the
general answer but went to the New York State Public High
School Athletic Association Web site to get key reasons. They are
· Encourage as many pupils as possible to
participate in athletic games.
· Promote sportsmanlike
conduct in all athletic contests.
· Maintain essential
minimum standards of eligibility.
· Provide means to settle
disputed athletic contests amicably and authoritatively.
Conduct appropriate athletic meets and tournaments.
Cooperate with the State Education Department in fostering
educationally sound athletic programs.
· Adapt rules
governing sports contests to the particular conditions governing high
· Continually seek data to support rule
changes leading to greater safety for high school athletes.
looking at the above principles it seems as though Mr. Grezinsky was in
violation of three of the above points. First, To promote
sportsmanlike conduct in all athletic contests. Okay, now think
about it. You are playing against Epiphanny Prince for Louis Brandeis
High School, you have already played Murry Bergtraum once this season,
on Dec. 12, and lost 115-22 and you just lost today by 105 points
(gulp!) and one player on the other team scored 77 percent of
the points, yet she obviously was not taken out of the game. Really,
there was no reason to leave Prince in the gameclearly she
wasnt being challenged. One could even argue that she
shouldnt have even played in this game!
According to nydailynews.com,
By halftime, she had 59 points, [the score was 74-11], topping
her previous complete-game career high of 51. She scored only one point
from the free throw line and hit just four three-pointers as she knifed
through the defense at will to score layup after layup. Why let
her do that? All it is doing is humiliating the other team and
discouraging their efforts. Can you imagine watching this game?
Daily News Web site also quoted Princes AAU coach, Apache
Paschall, who said hes used to seeing Prince score in bunches but
admitted that even he was surprised by the explosion. "In the
first half all I was thinking about was her catching Kobe,"
Paschall said. "But when she wasn't missing any shots in the
second half, it just got ridiculous." Yes Mr. Paschall, you have
zeroed in on the heart of the issue this is completely
Second, to conduct appropriate athletic meets and
tournaments. This contest was hardly appropriate.
Grezinsky was definitely not encouraging as many pupils as possible to
participate in the game. I know, varsity sports are governed as a
meritocracy, if you willyou need to earn your spot on the team
and your playing time, too. I absolutely agree with this. But can you
imagine being a sub for Murry Bergtraum? You sit on the bench during a
time when you can get playing time and improve your game so that this
star on your team can score at will, only accomplishing a record that
should never be! All this record shows is the selfish side of athletics
and a coach who cannot control his players. As the old adage goes,
Athletics does not build character. It reflects it. I
challenge you to see what we all saw occur in this game.
written on midsouthhoops.net declared Epiphanny Prince as undisputed, arguing that she
is the number one player in the country. I agree with that, but a
113-point massacre was not needed to prove it. If asked a week ago,
most people who follow the PSAL would argue that Prince was the best
high school player in the country. The article also compared the
performance to Kobe Bryant. This is a huge problem, as their should be
no comparison between a professional athlete and a high school athlete.
Professional athletes are being paid to play against other players who
are being paid. The definition of sportsmanship is slightly different
for coaches and players at that level. Lots of money is involved and
record-setting days are good for the game as well as for revenue. It is
the entertainment business, and players who are being paid need to be
doing what they are paid to do. Prince is a high school athlete, who
has the privilege of playing for her school. She is able to do this
because her grades are acceptable, and she meets eligibility
requirements. What she is participating in was created as an
educational medium to teach important lessons about life, while
encouraging participation. She shares nothing in common with Kobe
Bryant, except that they both play basketball.
for Louis Brandeis High School, the team on the receiving end of the
record, is a 32-year coaching veteran with several championships under
her own belt. I decided to try and speak with her to see what she
thought of the game. Coach Vera Springer at first was reluctant to
speak. Shed been called by the media a lot and replied that she
was not speaking about the game at that point. But she did offer a few
comments to a fellow athletic director who wanted her thoughts.
Coach Spring called Princes scoring run of 113 points a
planned publicity stunt. It was obvious to all of our girls that the
other team was yelling, get Epiphanny the ball!' All players
involved knew it was planned.
Springer went on: These
are not professionals who are being paid. These are kids, and I am
disappointed at how the media are treating my team.
didnt earn this, Springer added. We let her do it, as
after a while it was obvious what was happening. I was proud of my kids
and how they handled themselves. We were good losers. Springer
has also received calls of support from across the country and added,
I have been getting calls from as far away as Texas, and all have
been of support.
Springer also commented about her opposition.
You could tell some kids on the other team were not happy with
what was happening. How could a coach do that to their own team?
So, how do we make
sure that coaches under our leadership never do what Grezinsky did? The
first is to include this conversation in coaches meetings and
orientations. Every year at Stoneleigh-Burnham we have a mandatory
coachs orientation which covers all policies of the department,
including sportsmanship and what it means. I am very specific as to how
I would like our team and school to be seen by fans, officials and most
importantly by our opponents. Being proactive is always easier than
having to deal with a situation while it is occurring.
happens, however, it is important to not act on emotion. Imagine being
Julia Taylor, the Athletic Director at Murry Bergtraum, and watching
this game. What do you do? Do you intervene? Do nothing? Have a
conversation afterward? The answer here is not so cut and dry, as one
can never predict how a coach will react if approached during a game. Had it been me, I
probably would have approached Grezinsky at the half. At that time,
Prince had 59 points and the game was wrapped up. If I were the director of athletics at Louis
Brandeis, I probably wouldve still approached Grezinsky at the
If anything positive can be seen from this, it is that an
important lesson can be learned by everyone involved. For Louis
Brandeis, it is how other teams feel when they are pummeled, and to
never humiliate a team in this way. For Murry Bergtraum, it is the job
of the athletic director to teach this lesson to both the coach and the
playersperhaps Grezinsky should be suspended.
As an athletic
director it is not only our job but our challenge to not give in to
todays sports culture, which focuses on personal glory and
victories at all costs, but instead stay focused on the purpose behind
the creation of our programs. Having the experience of playing on a
varsity sport is something that athletes at our schools will probably
always remember. It is the podium from which we can teach about
success, failure, and the many lessons that go with each. So what did
the 137-32 final score last week teach? It taught us that sportsmanship
in high school athletics is truly dead. I hope this passing does not go
unnoticed as one more piece of nostalgia in high school athletics, but
rather as a tragedy which re-centers our thoughts on what is truly
important in the educational experience of our athletes today.
Randy Bertin is the Director of Athletics at Stoneleigh-Burnham
School, an independent boarding and day school for girls grades 6-12,
in Greenfield, Mass. He can be reached at email@example.com