Rules in any athletic endeavor are typically part of a commonsense approach at keeping a sport fair and competitive for all, giving guidelines and procedures from which a game or activity can be played, and for protecting an athlete's safety when competing.
They can be broadly based in order to regulate the game or can be designed to address something specific in nature. In either case, they represent the ideals by which good sportsmanship can be carried out, in addition to the principles laid out above.
So what's the deal with all the hoopla and press over senior pole vaulter Robin Laird (from South Pasadena High in California) whose disqualification over breaking a rule cost her team the conference championship?
I mean come on, she broke a rule, right? She did something, or in this case had something on, that the opposing coach caught, reported, and she got disqualified for - isn't that what is supposed to happen when one breaks a rule?
Well yes, I suppose if we look at everything in such absolute terms. However, that is the problem isn't it, the idea that everything is always absolute? At least that is what I get out of last week's article, Young athlete transcends the rules, by Steve Lopez of the L.A. Times.
And what was the rule Robin Laird broke? That no athlete is allowed to wear any type of jewelry when competing.
Certainly sounds fair enough, at least based on the definition I laid out in my first paragraph - that commonsense guidelines would dictate the need for a rule like this to protect an athlete's safety, right?
Surely you have seen some of the extensive, elaborate, and substantial (not to mention "pointy") jewelry our youth are adorning themselves with lately. Just imagine what might happen to an eyebrow pierced with a spike type piece of metal if it got caught on the vaulting pole, vault bar, or in the landing matt as the athlete bounced up from contact.
And that does not even begin to address the issues that are present if jewelry were allowed to be worn in any contact sports.
So your next question should be, "what was Robin wearing that got her disqualified?"
It was that very dangerous and commonly seen adornment - the little string bracelet!!!
That is right, those little stranded string bracelets that have about as much of a safety concern as the tied shoe-laces in her track shoes, or track spikes if that is what she wears (Wait, did I say track spikes? Aren't they sharp?).
Now don't get me wrong, I am kind of a stickler for rules. I believe following rules does help one develop their character, or at least reveal the type of character they have.
I most assuredly don't condone, suggest, or support anyone breaking rules in a sport, even if they may not necessarily make immediate sense to those on the outside.
I am dead set against any type of cheating and, if you peruse just a couple of my blogs, you would certainly notice my emphasis on good character, integrity, and just plain doing the right thing just because it is the right thing to do.
However, I do believe that the application of the "no jewelry" rule here was an attempt by an opposing coach to return a "favor" that was once bestowed upon him by another coach which cost his team a past "CIF title," facts that are present in Lopez's article cited above.
If you truly apply the guidelines regarding rules that I started this piece with, you would easily find that this case does not pass the test. It is very unlikely that the little string bracelet Laird wore posed any safety problem for her or her teammates, nor was the rule applied using any type of commonsense.
I could see a coach requesting her to remove it before she vaults because of the rule, but reporting her to get her disqualified, giving your team the conference championship, I just don't see as appropriate.
Sorry Monrovia High coaches (the coaches benefitting from Robin Laird's misfortune), that buzzer you hear going off is my unsportsmanlike conduct buzzer, and it is going off because of you.
Bad form coaches, bad form.
And what is Robin Laird's viewpoint on this situation and whether the disqualification should be upheld, well:
"It would be unsportsmanlike for us to try to take it back.... "I think that in my experience with playing so many sports, I know that it's about more than just rules . . . but I'm accepting of the fact that rules are rules."
Now how is that for sportsmanship? An athlete who really does understand, and one after my own heart.
Monrovia coaches, I hate to be the one to point this out, but you just got schooled!!!