Three times in the past two weeks, I went to local high school basketball games and witnessed teams running up the score against opponents. I've also seen it happen plenty of times in recreation and travel league games, where coaches refuse to control their players and teams, and it results in embarrassing the opponents even more.
In these particular situations, all three teams had leads of more than 20 points heading into the fourth quarter and continued to play their starters and implement a full-court press. Even when the starters finally came out, the substitutes were pressing and running-and-gunning as if trying to score 100 points, even though none of the teams were close. And the coaches did nothing to discourage it.
No matter what level you are coaching, this is unacceptable. Some sports are harder than others to control the scoring. In baseball, you should not tell your team to quit hitting -- although you should stop taking extra bases in a blowout -- or your pitcher to stop throwing strikes. And in football you can't just lay down. But in team sports like basketball and lacrosse, it's very easy to avoid further embarrassing the other team.
With all of your reserves in, have them pass the ball around for one minute on offense. After one minute, run a set play until you score or turn the ball over. This takes time off the clock, allows your players to play hard and work on execution, and avoids scoring a lot of points against what you've already proven to be a weaker opponent. Lastly, you should insist your team never run a fast break.
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It's perfectly fine to play hard on defense, but it should be in a packed-in zone and not using any type of press.
It's the head coach's job to control the tempo with a large lead, and to make sure there are players in the game willing to do so. (If they aren't, that's why you have a bench).
Running up the score against an opponent is embarrassing for everyone involved -- first and foremost, for the coach allowing it to happen.
Contact Jon Buzby at JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @youthsportsbuzz on Twitter.