Integrity in high school sports has long been a red hot issue, with some soothsayers claiming it’s on the decline, mostly due to overwhelming pressure to win, the chance to earn lucrative college scholarships and the presence of performance-enhancing drugs.
But there is a fine line to integrity.
For example, is it acceptable for a player to feign an injury late in the game because his or her team desperately needs to stop the clock and no time outs remain?
Some would call that a lack of integrity and others call it a team-first, last gasp effort that should be applauded.
What if a wrestler knows before a match that his opponent is recovering from an injury?
Is it a lack of integrity on the wrestler’s part to attack the injury and take advantage of it?
Or should he compete as if he didn’t know the injury exits?
Should a basketball player fake charging, or “flop” in order to draw a foul or stop an opponent from advancing to the basket?
Or is that a lack of integrity because it is a fake charge rather than an actual foul?
Is it a lack of integrity for a basketball player to fall onto the floor faking he has been fouled on a shot attempt when he actually was barely touched by the defender?
Flops and faking defensive fouls are basketball ploys used by players around the world.
Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink knows well what issues go along with integrity, especially after an incident that occurred in an Oct. 20 loss to Mingus.
The event occurred late in the game with the score tied 22-22 and after a Marauder hitter hammered the ball out of bounds.
Stonebrink jumped to his feet yelling, “Yes!”
But then Payson’s Emmee Ashby confessed to the referee that she had touched the ball on the block.
Which meant Payson went from being up 23-22 to down 22-23.
Today, Stonebrink is praising Ashby for her commendable act of integrity and honesty in such a crucial junction of the match.
Stonebrink says Emmee told him she was raised to be honest no matter what, and such moral issues are bigger than volleyball.
Stonebrink agrees with Emmee and she has received praise from the Mingus camp for her ethical standards.
But while most everyone is lauding Emmee for her honesty, it’s safe to say a huge majority of players and coaches would not make the same decision as the PHS teen.
Most coaches, including Stonebrink, preach that officiating is the referees’ responsibility and their decisions should be adhered too — right or wrong.
Coaches and players are required to adhere to the rules of the sports, and one of the rules is an official’s decision should be the final word.
Coaches often say some decisions go against you, some go in your favor. So accept whatever the decision is.
Finally, a big part of integrity in high school games centers around whether an act gave a team, or player, an unfair advantage.
If it did, that is the definition of a lack of integrity.
If it didn’t, integrity was intact.
In the 1960s and ’70s, my friends and I played in a lot of pick-up basketball games on Tempe courts and on the campus of Arizona State University.
Because we had no officials, we played “call your own fouls.”
That meant, if you fouled an opponent on a shot, be truthful and call it yourself.
The opponent received the ball out of bounds to start a new play.
Looking back, that was an ethical way to compete.
In today’s sports world, however, there is no “call your own fouls,” making it safe to bet Emmee’s honorable act won’t be returned soon.