By Cameron Macco
Since they were a toddler, an athlete had big dreams of their future in a sport. They’ve put in the time, given the effort, and missed many good times with friends towards that goal, only to have their dreams stopped dead in their tracks by a coach who didn’t like them.
There are several different kinds of favoritism that can occur during a sport. One is where a coach favors certain players over other, regardless of skill, and only bases that decision of whether to accept somebody on their team, or play them more often, on if they like a player, or have a special relationship with them.
Senior basketball captain Brandon Bowser feels that if a coach likes a player more, they may make more decisions in a player’s favor.
“Usually with the coaches that are well familiar with the player, they may tend to lean towards them more in terms of playing time and putting them in in certain situations,” Bowser said.
Different sports may, depending on a player’s perspective, have more people feel like the coach is favoring one player over another player.
DHS athletic director and girls basketball coach Bob Wellman said he would not play favorites with his team.
“As a basketball coach, I base my [choices] on talent and work ethic and attitude,” Wellman said.
Should a player not see a coach as being fair to them on the team, that could motivate them to quit the team, something Wellman has seen.
“I have heard kids talk about leaving a sport because they don’t feel they’re liked by the coach,” Wellman said, although adding that he has never personally seen a coach choose an athlete because they liked them more than another athlete.
Some athletes have never even seen favoritism in any sports they play.
“Through my career I haven’t seen [coach favoritism] but I’m sure it happens maybe on a smaller scale but I feel like the higher level you go up the more obvious it is when a person’s good or bad that favoritism doesn’t really need to happen,” senior basketball captain Blake Appell said.
Several players and coaches have also made notices of referee favoritism, when a referee makes close calls consistently in favor of a certain team or player, both in professional sports and high school sports. Softball coach Jason Gehoski said that he has seen umpires favor certain teams, but that for the most part it’s accidental since the umpires try their hardest and boys tennis coach Terry Schwartzkopf said he has absolutely seen it happen.
Bowser has seen it several times in his own experience.
“Refs tend to favor the home team,” Bowser said. “Usually in professional sports they try not to but in more high school and college level it seems as if the call is close it’s going to go towards the home team.”
Appell believes that when referees favor a team it takes away from the sport.
“I feel like if referees have favoritism towards a player or a team it kind of takes away from the competition because referees can kind of manipulate calls to change the game depending on how they feel about a player or a team,” Appell said. “It makes the competition kind of unfair and almost not worth it if you don’t really have much of a chance to win.”
He also said that referee favoritism happens, but is rare.
“In basketball I don’t see [referee favoritism] often,” Appell said. “But we’ve had a couple division one basketball players play in our league and when we play against them I see refs kind of looking away from calls, maybe not making calls against other people. They kind of seem awestruck with the player and not really pay attention to what they’re doing.”
Perspective is very important in seeing if favoritism exists, since a player might blame the coach for not playing them, when really they aren’t very good athletes.
“For sure kids are always disappointed if they don’t make the team,” Bowser said. “They’re looking for something to blame rather than themselves. Definitely they point to the coach or other reasons outside of themselves but that’s not necessarily the case all the time.”
Gehoski said that a player may feel that they are better than they actually are and blame others instead of objectively looking at the situation.
“I’d say the majority of the time I think when people quit because of a coach or because of the position they feel they’re not being treated fairly and whether or not they didn’t get the position, rather than taking a step back looking at the facts or maybe having a conversation of ‘why am I not here, what do I do to earn that?’, rather than just saying ‘forget it I’m quitting,’” Gehoski said.
Schwartzkopf feels, although favoritism does occur, it’s unjustified should a coach do it and that the better players are clearly visible.
“I think it does happen but if it does it’s an abuse of power on the coach’s side,” Schwartzkopf said. “I coach tennis. Tennis is pretty straight-forward. You win or you lose so favoritism doesn’t have anything to do with it because if you consistently win over another player, you’ve earned the spot.”