“Dad, you never tried to steal signs and cheat did you?” my son asked as we listened to MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM the afternoon the ramifications of Houston Astros cheating scandal broke.
“No, and I want you to learn from this that if you cheat, you will get caught. Someone will catch you. Cheaters never win.” I responded.
This is a conversation many fathers are having with their kids in the wake of hearing how the Houston Astros cheated their way to winning a World Series. It is a lesson many are trying to teach their kids as they advance through the ranks of youth sports with aspirations to be a professional athlete.
I have seen coaches, specifically in a recreation baseball league, who have studied umpires and know just how they can skirt the rules. They see that either the umpire is not paying attention or do have a different understanding of “when the ball is back in the infield” and will have their kids run an extra-base just to gain an advantage… in a recreational league.
Much like the Los Angeles Dodgers who faced the Houston Astros cheating their way to winning the 2017 World Series, what kind of message is this sending to the other team and their players? The Astros were fined $5 Million, their coach and general manager were suspended for one year (the Astros have since fired the two individuals), and draft picks have been revoked for the next two years.
Cheaters Never Win
Cheating might seem like an easy way out to grab a win, but ultimately cheaters will get caught and end up losing more then they gained by cheating. This is one of those tough lessons that his hard to teach young kids. Weekend after weekend as our kids play in tournaments the same team seems to win over and over. Eventually, our kids will wonder what would happen if they were to cheat. Playing by the rules though will take them farther in the sport then if they were run an extra base when the umpire wasn’t looking.
You Lose With The Win At All Cost Mentality
For many teams, like the Houston Astros, there can (and was) be a win at all cost mentality. It is taking that extra base when the umpire isn’t looking. It is running a video camera out in the outfield and banging on a trash can to give the batter an edge to let them know what pitch is coming.
What are we teaching our kids though with this win at all cost? Sports isn’t always about winning. There can be lessons learned from losing and mental fortitude that builds the character needed to go further in life then sports can take someone. Sports are after all a game and should be fun, and win or lose that is what matters.
You Only Cheat Yourself
Whether on the field or off the field it can be tough to see you get passed up for a promotion or a starting position on a team. Moreover when the person that passed you by has less skill but is cheating to get ahead.
At the youth level though, cheating like running an extra base when the umpire isn’t looking doesn’t teach the kids. This doesn’t help the cheating team or the other team. In fact, it hurts the kids on each team because the cheating team feels that they will be able to skirt the rules to make it in the sport. The other team feels frustrated that the playing field isn’t level and their heads start to hang on the field. Eventually, they are so down on themselves that they quit playing a game that they love. The cheating team who has the win at all cost mentality has no idea how to react when they lose and become sore losers blaming coaches, umpires, and the other team for their loss when they should be looking internally at what they can do better next time.
The conversation I had with my son that night, struck a chord in us both. We know that we are going to run into a team that is going to find some way to get around the rules so that they can win at all cost, and eventually, it will catch up to them in the same way that banging on the trash cans has for the Houston Astros.