In an attempt to handle those blowout situations a youth basketball league has implemented the following rule:
12.1 REMOVAL OF TOP PLAYERS - If the mercy rule
is in effect at the start of, or any time during the
5th period, it is mandatory for the opposing
coach to select a maximum of three (3) players
to sit out the balance of the game or until the
difference in the score of the game is 15 points or
less. Eligible substitutes must be available and
the removal of players cannot force a team to
play with less than five (5) players.
I asked for some opinions of this rule and my friend Matt Grahn (who writes a GREAT blog "Matt Grahn's Basketball Coaching Workshop" ) sent me a note asking, "Has sportsmanship slipped to the point where it has to be mandated by rule?" My thoughts are the same. We shouldn't have to devise rules to "make" sportsmanship happen we should educate coaches on doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do. At Positive Coaching Alliance we train Double-Goal Coaches™ nationwide about the responsibility of striving to win while teaching life-lessons in order to develop Triple-Impact Competitors™ through establishing a positive culture, creating dynamic practices, and making the games meaningful for all who are involved.
When an opposing coach removes the "Top Players" as outlined in the rule, those players may think "I'm so good the other coach won't let me play". Possibly worse than that, they may take it personal and feel the other coach does not like them, creating a wedge between that player and coach that may never be able to be removed. Another detrimental message being sent is to the players who are allowed to play. It tells them that they are not as good as the other players - and may further widen that perceived gap. None of this can be good for the mental and social growth of either group of players.
I'd love to hear some thoughts on the rule and some suggesstions on how best to manage a most difficult, and all too common, situation.