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0-10 Never Again

September 26, 2011 - Michael Palmer
Have you been a contributing member of a winning team? A championship team?

Then you know the thrill and exhilaration, the euphoria of being on top of your game.

Many people participate in sports for years and never know that feeling.

My son attended Conotton Valley High School and had a career record as a four-year letter winner in football of 3-37. That run included two 0-10 seasons and the incredibly embarrassing 99-0 loss to Newcomerstown.

This season the Rockets snapped a 28 game losing streak by posting a near shut out of Bellaire St. Johns.

A coach at Conotton Valley once printed t-shirts that stated, “O-10 NEVER AGAIN” and the following season his Rockets went 0-10 again.

This year there are local teams who may indeed post a winless season mark. If you have ever been a part of such a team, then you have tenacity and heart beyond those who have never had to show up for the grueling practices and face each week knowing the most probable outcome will be yet another loss.

I have been on both ends of the sports rollercoaster and at all points in between. I was a catcher on a championship team, I was coach of a championship team, I have been on winless team, coached a winless team and was a parent of a player on a winless team.

It takes an incredible amount of intestinal fortitude to strap on the pads and bust your rear for a solid week knowing full well that you would face an opponent that was bigger, faster, stronger and you were facing long odds to even score, let alone win.

Tales of underdogs who championed their cause despite long odds, like David and Goliath, that annoying High Hopes song, just exacerbated the situation. Then there was “Remember the Alamo,” enough said.

Sports psychology has become the next boom industry coaches have discovered the power of psychology, but back in the day we had no such guru. We did not even have water bottles, hydration was for sissies and we had salt tablets instead.

I know there are hundreds of books on the psychology of winning, but what about the psychology of losing.

Losing, over the years has claimed its fair share of victims. Players that have lost all confidence and cannot perform at the levels required have inevitably been shown the door or just plain quit.

Team spirit is low or nonexistent and pep rallies become a theater of farce.

When we visited the University of Nebraska of football camp we asked then coach Frank Solich and he sent us to his sports psychologist. When we told him about the problem at our school and that the students had resolved themselves to losing and it no longer bothered some of the athletes that they were going to lose.

We told him that due to the lack of participation the cut had been eliminated as a tool for motivation on the off season and that some of the students now knew that mediocre players would see playing time and did not put forth the effort in the off season to improve.

We asked for advice on how to fix the problem, but he knew the only solution to pull a team out of a losing slump is winning.

A class of talented athletes could do so, but not always. In 1996 the Conotton Valley football squad went 9-1. The next two seasons were the 0-10 season mentioned in the never again.

My cousin, Mike Palmer, head coached at Jewett-Scio during some lean years at that school in football. He can tell you from his experience that no amount of coaching expertise is going to overcome a huge gap in athletic ability.

At a recent game I overheard some fans on a losing teams sideline bad mouthing the coaching staff. The publisher here also mentioned hearing some similar remarks at a game she was attending.

Trust me when I tell you, it is not fun hearing the insults and jeers from the crowds and parents when you are coaching little Bobby, their Superstar.

It des not matter if the athlete runs the 40 in just under a minute, or could not catch a cold in flu epidemic, they want to see their kid get playing time. Understood, I have been on both sides of that debate also.

If there is no sub-folder, which is full of school politics and social favoritism, it makes for a boring sideline discussion, am I right?

Despite the dismal team record, my son had a fighting attitude and spirit. I am proud to say that his first varsity action in high school resulted in a personal foul for an especially hard hit away from the play on a kick off.

I am not proud because he retaliated, he did not, the intent was simply following instructions from his coach to, “Get out there and block someone @$%#*&!”

He was not familiar with the rules and did not realize that his actions were inappropriate, because he had been, “Lit up,’ on a kick off before in a JV game.”

My youngest daughter always had to play up an age group, she did this to be on the same team as her older sister. She did well and always rose to the challenge, however, when the older girls graduated, she was left as the lone player remaining from that team.

She struggled through her senior campaign in softball as a pitcher with no support. A catcher that routinely let balls skip to the back stop and fielders who could not make the defensive plays to back up her performance on the mound.

This is perhaps a fate worse than just being an average athlete on a losing team, being a talented athlete, or the only talented athlete on a losing team.

In the end, I guess we have to understand that the whole premise of competition is one team or person wins and one team or person loses.

Losing is a part of the game and in some cases it is an entire season.

At the very least, the young person participating has had the opportunity to be a part of a team. Win or lose, I still feel that experience is important to a well-rounded adult.

For me, I would rather play an entire season on a losing team than spend it on the side lines complaining or making fun of my fellow students as they struggled valiantly on the field of competition.


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Blog Photos

Senior recognition day. 2002. My wife Susan and myself proudly walked Tony across the field at Conotton Valley. Win or Lose I know both of us would relive those days if we could.