1:40 p.m., Feb.12, 2013

Shootouts put I back in team sports

Playoff overtime in sports can be one of the most thrilling, uplifting events, or it can be absolutely soul-crushing. There is one thing, though, that can be even worse…shootouts.

I am very familiar with shootouts, and I am still not entirely sure I’m sold on the idea. They have been in soccer for years and have even decided World Cup matches. Hockey has followed suit and seen many Olympic and other international tournaments be decided, or nearly decided, via the shootout. For Laramie County Community College, however, the shootout brought about the end of what was an otherwise fantastic men’s soccer season.

Golden Eagles soccer put out by shooutout

The Golden Eagles’ men’s soccer team was 13–4–1, with an 11–1–1 record in Region IX. With high hopes for winning it all, the team saw an early exit when they lost to Western Wyoming Community College in a shootout following a 1–1 tie. It was an undesirable end to a phenomenal season. In team sports, such as soccer and hockey, the shootout in some ways feels like a cheap gimmick, especially in the playoffs.

Hockey and soccer are both team sports, in which all the players work together to move the puck or ball around the playing surface with the goal of getting past the defenders. But the shootout takes away that team aspect. It forces players into a situation to use a skill set not entirely necessary for regulation play. It takes away the team aspect from the game and puts it all on the individual. It rewards not necessarily the hardest working team, but the one with the best shootout ability.

A scenario that does not exist but illustrates the point just as well is if in football, rather than having overtime, they would kick the ball to one person and only have one defensive player on the field. It would be only those two on the field. While that scenario sounds absolutely absurd, it is much the same idea as in hockey and soccer.

Shootouts have their time, place

This is not to say I am entirely against shootouts because I do see some reasoning behind them. In the National Hockey League, for example, they use shootouts only to decide regular season games, and then, only if nobody scores during the five-minute 4-on-4 overtime period they play. This is done to facilitate the quick turnaround that many of these teams must make, as often times, immediately following a game, they must head to the airport for home, or to another game.

It also keeps the games at a reasonable length. It gives the fans some incredible highlight reel footage. In the playoffs, though, the NHL plays continuous sudden death overtime until one team scores. That is the way playoff contests should be decided.

The reasoning behind shootouts in collegiate sports, and youth sports, especially to decide state or national championships, is not entirely related to the game itself but because of the management of the playing surface. Many tournaments, including the one that LCCC lost, have multiple games scheduled that all must be played. If they did adopt continuous overtime, it could be a disaster if a team headed into double or triple overtime and then had to play another one or two games after that. Games could end up not starting until almost 11 p.m. in some cases.

For that reason alone, the shootout will probably always be a part of big tournaments, but it still does not make the case for it to be the only way. Team games should be won by the team, not the individual.

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