Posted by: johnhourihan | September 4, 2012

Play Fair and Win

A few years ago, Education World, printed the following about my book, Play Fair and Win.

I wrote the book because it has always been easy to play fair and lose or to play not so fair and win. The difficulty has been in the art of playing far and winning.

I hadn’t realized until someone at  Education World asked me to answer the following questions so they could print them for teachers to see. I thought I would reprint it here.

How can teachers use your book?
There are three ways I believe teachers can use “Play Fair and Win.”
1. Teachers are often called on to coach sports, either intra-mural or intra-school. Teachers, by nature, want to do it right and often don’t have the sports background. This book has all the basics needed to coach baseball and to meld the strong points of a teacher into the art of being a coach.
//See page 44, “bless the teachers who coach.”//
2. Even if a teacher is not coaching a sport and has no use for the basics of baseball other than to understand the game his or her students play after school and on weekends, the attitudes learned in interacting between a coach and young people or among the players outside the classroom setting can be useful in understanding what goes on within the school.
//See pages 114-118, Zen sportsmanship”//
3. This book is also useful to a teacher to help give insight into what student athletes go through when they are not in school. It clarifies some of the tensions that they bring back to the classroom.
//See Chapter Two, “You Gotta Love the Game.”//

What can teachers learn from coaches?
Teachers interact with children for eight hours a day, five days a week. The rest of the time kids used to spend with parents or with other kids. Now, with the over-organization of sports, The coaches have become a huge part of off-school time.
And coaches deal with children in full view and under intricate scrutiny of the parents who are just a few feet off the field watching every move.
Coaches also do it without having to cut through the “in-school” face of a young person. Like it or not, to young people the playing field is more reality than the school room. By talking to coaches and really listening, schools can better understand the true importance of sports.
//See page 8, “The real story of baseball,” and page 11, “Another reason we played.,” and page102, Parents and Children.//

What do you think are some of the reasons conflicts between youths on teams – and in other venues – seem more often to turn violent?
Across the decades I taught and coached, I found that violence erupts mainly from two sources in sports.
From the players and from the adults (including but not limited to the coach.)
And it erupts mainly for two reason: Fear and disrespect.
1. In sports there is the fear of physical injury and the fear of  being inadequate.
The first responsibility of any coach is to take away the fear of physical injury by teaching and drilling the basics so every team member is skilled enough to protect himself or herself on the field during the action.
//See page 32, The Nitty Gritty.”//
2. Next is the complex problem of how to prevent a kid from showing his inadequacies on the field in full view of parents, friends and even worse, enemies.
//See pages 63 -65, substitutions.// (The rules I used for substitutions in baseball work as well in any event or sport in life.

What are the lessons a good coach should instill in youngsters?
Among a million other things, I consciously tried to teach the following to every player, every year.
1. Teach them to make good decisions, on the field and off the field.
2. Teach them the differing degrees of what is important.
3. Teach them to respect the other guy and the rules of the game.
//See chapter 11, Building Blocks” and pages 123-124, the Conclusion”////

How can lessons learned on the playing field help children in the classroom?
If anyone believes it is important to learn and practice the basics of your craft, to work as a team toward a common goal, to make good decisions, to respect the other guy and the rules, and know what is truly important in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are on a little league team or the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you are going to be ahead of most other people.

How, if at all, has the definition of sportsmanship changed?
Sportsmanship used to be a spontaneous act on the field of play that showed you respected the other guy and the rules of the game and knew what was important on and off the field.
Now sportsmanship has become the outward display of a system of adult-devised rituals that are supposed to prove that you are a good sport to everyone watching. The real deal goes totally unnoticed and kids know it.
Coaches and parents espouse the virtue of “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose,” but parents and coaches were brought up to try to win, and this contradiction gives rise to all manners of tricks and  cheating and getting an edge that, in turn, give rise to tension and violence.
We tell them sportsmanship is good , but we reward winning above all.
//See, pages 114-118, Zen sportsmanship.//
In every game on every field, acts of true sportsmanship go unnoticed by those who espouse shaking hands after the game as the true meaning of the ideal.
//See page 118, A true act of sportsmanship,“ and page 119, The attitudes are bad, not the players.”//

If you are interested in buying the book, it is sold online at or anywhere else where books are sold online. Google Play Fair and Win, and you will find dozens of places it is sold.



  1. The way you say it is somthing the way you see it,first,amazes me!

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