Once again, the dreaded tunnel

It’s been a while since I’ve written about this, and quite frankly I thought it was gone for good. But a couple of weekends ago I was out at a game, watching, not participating in any way, and at the end something horrible reared its ugly head for the first time in a long time (at least that I know of). It was the dreaded “tunnel.”

For those not familiar with it, it’s something the winning team does after the game. The players divide themselves into two lines facing each other, and raise their arms above their heads. They then start banging hands with the person across from them, all the while chanting “We are proud of you, we are proud of you.”

That in and of itself doesn’t sound so bad. But it’s where they do it. They stand at the entrance of their opponent’s dugout, and force the losing team to walk through this tunnel of arms and bodies to get back to their stuff.

Coaches who do it like to claim it’s a tribute to their opponents. But everyone (including them) knows it’s really not. In fact, it’s a way of celebrating your own victory while rubbing it in the noses of the team that just lost. They may be chanting “We are proud of you” but what they’re really saying is “We just kicked your butts, we just kicked your butts.”

I have no problem with a team celebrating its victory. But you don’t do it on your opponent’s side of the field. You do it on your own side, and leave your opponents completely out of it. To hold your celebration on the other side is a direct insult. If you don’t believe that, imagine if the University of Washington had run to Arizona’s dugout a couple of weeks ago, made a tunnel, and started chanting how proud they were of their defeated opponents. Likely you would’ve seen a full-on fistfight break out.

If I am the losing coach (and again I had nothing to do with this particular game), I don’t really care if you are proud of me. Your opinion means nothing to me. My team and I want to clean up the dugout, leave the area, and go do whatever it is we do after a game. To have to walk through your outstreteched arms is not on my list of things to do.

When my son Eric was in soccer, there was a tunnel there too. But in that case it was created by his team’s parents, and our own players would run under it. It was created in front of his team’s bench. I have no problem with that, and had no problem with it when other teams did the same thing. That was a self-contained celebration instead of an “in-your-face” show of superiority. Again, the boys probably knew better than to try doing that on someone else’s side.

Getting back to softball, I’ve always hated the tunnel. We didn’t do it, and quite frankly when it was more popular I told my girls to walk around it rather than go through it. Some of the parents on our team thought it was poor sportsmanship on my part at first until I explained about celebrating on your own side of the field. They got it, and supported the decision going forward.

One year at a meeting of the weekday travel league we played in I made it clear to the other coaches I didn’t want to see it and wouldn’t let my players go through it, so don’t bother. They all agreed it really wasn’t a good thing, and I thought it had finally disappeared. Until last weekend.

You can try to justify it all you want. But it’s just not sportsmanlike to rub your opponent’s face in a loss — which is what you’re really doing. If you’re doing it, stop. If you’re faced with it, you can make your own decision. But I recommend walking around/ignoring it. It’s the only way to make it stop for good.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on April 20, 2010, in General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Ken,I agree completely. Our first year of 10U we suffered the tunnel of shame just once! It caught me off guard. Right after that humiliation, my team meeting/talk consisted of nothing about the game we just lost, but only this point. I informed the team that “FROM NOW ON” we never go through that tunnel again! I told the girls they really meant “We are NOT proud of you cause you really stink!” I went on and told the girls from now on when we see the tunnel forming we all go to 2nd base and I will have our team meeting there. To heck with the dug-out, it can be cleaned up later.One parent told me she thought it was cute & I told her to look at it this way. We make it to the state championship game and lose by one run in ITB and then the other team tries to rub our face in it by doing the tunnel! It is one of the most unsportsmanlike displays in the game.On the other hand I saw something that I really liked. My team is the Muscatine Lightning. One of my girls got hurt during a game in Des Moines at state. When we got her up and helped he back tothe dugout the other team chanted “She’s a Lightning, she’s tough, she’s a Lightning, she’s tough”. That was cool and suportive. The “tunnel” is NOT.

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  2. Bryan, good for you. I’m glad you avoided it and left them hanging. The “walk of shame” is right. No need to go through that gauntlet.The chant for the injured player was nice. That’s a great example of sportsmanship. Too bad those “tunnel” teams don’t use that as their model.

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  3. Just back from an 8 and under tournament and this was our first. We are a new team and had the tunnel done to us 4 times this weekend. Didnt like it either for our kids.

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  4. Shannon, I hope you directed your girls to go into the dugout a different way, or you took them into the outfield. If enough teams ignore it, maybe it will go away. Hopefully you’ll beat those teams later in the season so you don’t have to deal with it anymore.

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  5. I’m glad to see that other people feel the same way about this as I do. My wife coaches a 10u girls team and our girls hate the tunnel. A few days ago my daughter (on our instructions) did not walk through the tunnel. She squeezed between the first player and the fence in order to re-enter our dugout. We received a registered letter from the Softball board wanting our daughter suspended for two games for “unsportmanlike conduct”.I have never seen anything so disgraceful in my life. Being suspended for refusing to participate in an unsportsmanlike display.We have changed our policy to prevent this in the future. After shaking hands the girls all go to the outfield for a team meeting to avoid the tunnel.

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  6. Randy, sorry to hear you were subjected to it. I’m glad your daughter did what she did, and I think you’re doing the right thing by just taking the team to the outfield. I can’t believe the league actually thought about suspending her for that. They have a strange idea of sportsmanship. Maybe next time you win you should have your team do a victory dance in front of the other bench, and when the complaints come (as they should) you can ask what the difference is between that and the tunnel. Just kidding. 🙂

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