Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Losing more than the game

Now that I’m retired I spend more time following La Cañada athletics. I’m a La Cañada High School booster, a true blue fan of the Spartans. On Jan. 16 I attended a Spartan varsity soccer game at LCHS. We were playing Temple City.

I was excited to see our team touted as being quite good. I have certain expectations of both coaches and athletes relative to the deportment necessary for the spirit of the game. A coach does more than create potential outcomes of success. Athletes are linked to the Greek word “arête,” meaning the quest for excellence. The Greeks took arête one step further and, via moral philosophy, created the concept of virtue.

What LCHS coach and athletes exhibited at the end of the game was the antithesis of virtue.

In the waning moments of the game there was rough play directed toward an LCHS player. That’s part of athletics and if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. However, what ensued as a result was reprehensible conduct. When you don’t see deportment, it shakes your faith right where you stand.

At the end of a game it is customary for both teams to approach the center of the field, shake hands and continue to the opposing side and applaud their opponents’ fans. The LCHS soccer team sat on their bench and ignored the pleasantries and sportsmanship of their opponents, Temple City. As a booster of LCHS athletics I was embarrassed by this display of disrespect for the coach, the team, and the school. How can we be committed to our Spartans when they exhibit such behavior?

My sensibilities are not sensitive. I have been in every hell hole in the Pacific and seen every grievous act that man can inflict upon another. Subsequently, I have thick skin. However, what I saw at the game under the banner of the red and gold made me wish I wasn’t a booster.

What are we teaching our children? Am I the Lone Ranger on this and the only one who sees a problem? Before you lay a foundation on the soccer field, you develop a solid foundation of character. That’s where you start to build. We need coaches and a community dedicated to teaching those actions and attitudes that create a superior organization. If that’s your goal, the score takes care of itself.

A few weeks prior to this incident, an LCHS player stormed off the field in anger, threw one of the field markers on the track, and sulked under the stands. What was his lesson for this childish behavior? His behavior was enabled, as he started the next game.

Normally, after taking shots at athletics, I get assorted emails along the lines of: “Dr. Joe! You don’t know a thing about competition; you’re not an athlete.”

Why do athletic aficionados believe that to have an opinion, one should be vested in the club? The exclusivity of this club mandates athletic success that is primarily defined by the score. Thus, most of my comments will be ignored and cited as obtrusive. Everyone should have a vested interest in our teams because they are representative of who we are as a community.

The Greeks created an athletic culture whereby winning was valued not for its own sake but for the moral virtues that contribute to victory. The institution has to decide whether or not the evolution of character is foundational to their athletic program. We should be more concerned with our character than our stature in the CIF because our character is who we are.

The Spartans had six goals; Temple City had none. But it was Temple City who will win in the end.

I have a lot of questions. If such blatant actions are happening on the field, what’s going on in the locker room?


JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at Visit his website at

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