Chris Masse on high school softball: West Chester East senior duo let teammates down

A high school softball team captured a PIAA softball championship yesterday. It was who not played, however, that generated statewide attention in the 48 hours before that game started.

It happened Tuesday when District 1’s West Chester East concluded the greatest season in program history by losing in the 5A Eastern final, 5-2, against Lampeter-Strasburg. It was not that loss which had people buzzing afterward. Instead, it was the absence of two senior West Chester East starters.

Those captains, the No. 1 and 2 hitters in the lineup who had a combined 182 career hits, decided not to play. This was not a family emergency, not an illness, not extenuating circumstances. No, these athletes bailed on their teammates so they could head to the beach for Senior Week, the annual senior tradition in which students spend a week at the shore following graduation.

This is shocking. This is totally inexcusable. This is just wrong. And even worse are the people defending this decision.

And that’s what this is. I’m not here to rail on these young women. It sounds like they are well-rounded, good people who have done a lot of outstanding things beyond softball. But they made a terrible decision. They forgot that this was not about them as individuals, but this was about the entire team.

They let that team down, period.

This is not Little League. This not an intramural league. This is high school sports. These girls made a commitment to their teammates, their coaches, their school and their community. They then dishonored that commitment so they could spend some fun in the sun at the beach.

Save the excuses here because there are none. They had an obligation to play. Yes, people can place too much emphasis on sports sometimes. But beyond wins and losses, what sports teach are life lessons. Sports teach lessons about hard work, dedication, goal-setting, sacrificing and family. These girls might have aced the first three but this one bad decision shows they flunked the last two.

I understand things happen and that there are so many things more important than sports. But heading to the beach for Senior Week is not one of them. If these players had planned on skipping out the second week of June they should have never come out this year. Why play nearly the entire season if you are going to leave your team high and dray when the games matter most?

No matter what others might try and say these girls made a commitment. That is the bottom line. They shirked that commitment. No excuse can change that fact.

Plan a trip to the beach with your senior classmates following the posteason. The beach will be there long after this week. An opportunity like this will not for those seniors and for their underclassmen teammates, maybe never again.

This was a selfish act. They thought about themselves and not their team. Neal Geoghegan of The Daily Local News in West Chester covered Tuesday’s game and reported that the West Chester East Athletic Director confirmed that the athletes did not play so they could attend Senior Week. He also talked to a player who he described had tears streaming down her cheeks. He also quoted a player who said the players should have honored their commitment and who was obviously disappointed that they did not. That tells the story, folks. These girls badly wanted a state championship and two of their best players were not there to help them try and win it.

Some are blaming the parents. To a degree, I get that. I’m all for giving your kids freedom but at the same time, if they are living under your roof they should follow your rules. I can only speak from personal experience, but I know my parents would have never let me leave my team in a situation like this.

Listen, West Chester East might have lost anyway had those girls played, but they were two of their best and most complete players. The Vikings had outscored six playoff opponents, 41-3. Losing them hurt on the field and probably psychologically as well. Maybe the Vikings lose if they were full strength but at least the teammates could live with that and not wonder what if? Now they will spend their lives possibly looking back and wondering if they could have gone all the way had everyone been there.

It blows my mind that A) these girls made this decision and B) so many are defending it. They are completely missing the point with the excuses they try making. The point here is they made a commitment and backed out on it. These were captains for crying out loud. This means that everything they said to their teammates this year was meaningless because they obviously did not care enough about being there for them at the most crucial time.

And to those who are keep trashing Geoghegan and others who have written about this in a public forum, you are enablers. You are telling people that it is OK to leave your team, your family, your sisters behind. You’re saying that it’s perfectly OK to upset all those teammates as long as the two who made the decision are happy. Wrong. When you play on a team you are in it for the common good, not just yourself. That is what being on a team is all about.

“It’s their lives,” you say. That is true, but decisions have impacts and repercussions. They are the ones that have to look at their teammates and explain why they did what they did. Would it be OK for these two to abandon their future employers so they can take an unexcused absence? The kind of decision can get one fired.

This is not a generatational thing. It’s not saying it was better back in the day and this would have never happened. This is about right and wrong. What these girls did was wrong. Stop excusing this behavior. Teach others that when you make a commitment you honor it.

I wish these girls the best and hope they learn from this mistake. But maybe they do not even care about the publicity this decision has generated.

They certainly did not care enough about their team.

–Chris Masse may be reached by email at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse

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