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The Polish Goal Line tactic
eli cranor
Syndicated sports columnist Eli Cranor

Dear Athletic Support: What should a coach’s message be to a team that was stripped of a state championship due to a blown call? During this scenario, the opponent had twelve players on the field before they scored the winning touchdown in the final seconds of the game.

 — Beautiful Sunsets


Dear BS: I was talking with a good friend of mine the other day about youth sports. This friend has a daughter who’s loving basketball, but she’s having a really tough season. Her team isn’t winning, and as a result, the coach is coming down hard on the girls. 

All of this has made my buddy think hard about the purpose basketball serves in his daughter’s life. The conclusion he came to is that this season is all about learning life lessons.

 That’s it. 

 The losses don’t matter. Even if the team happens to win a few games, that wouldn’t matter either. What’s important for this particular season is that his daughter learns how to persevere when things don’t go right.

 I found this extremely wise, and thought it could apply to almost every question I get for this column. 

 Every season, every different team, they all provide different lessons. A winning season could provide lessons like “How to get the most out of your talent,” or “How not to relax when things are going well.” 

 A losing season, as my friend well knows, is all about overcoming obstacles and sticking with it. The key for any parent, player, or coach, is to be able to recognize the lessons that each season presents.

 So, what lesson could a coach teach his players after having the state title stripped from them after a blown call? 

 There are many that come to mind, but none bigger than the fact that life is not fair. State championships come and go, but high school boys never forget the lessons they learn on the field. 

 The “life isn’t fair” lesson is something these young men can use in the future when things get tough. A state championship ring might look pretty in a case, but in the end, it’s the lessons we learn along the way that matter most.

 Side note: I’ve actually heard of coaches trying to sneak an extra player onto the field for fourth down, short-yardage situations. If I’m remembering correctly, I think the term was “The Polish Goal Line Tactic.” The idea is that if you don’t get caught, you gain a big advantage. If you do, you take the penalty and punt or kick the field goal. 

 Double Side Note: This won’t work in the NFL, or NCAA levels, because twelve men on the field is a dead ball foul. But it’s just a penalty and a replay of the down in most high school leagues. If this is something you want to fight, you might take that rule up with your state’s activity board and see if you can get it changed.


Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to

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