rules without reinforcement are, well . . . you know

we are all familiar with how rules work.  not counting dictatorships, normally a group of people reach some type of consensus, make the consensus into a rule, then have everyone within the group’s sphere of influence follow it.  those who disobey are punished in some form, e.g., fines, jail, mark on your record, and so on.  if there is no punishment or an undesirable consequence, then the rule will probably be ignored by people, since they won’t suffer from violating that rule.

based on my personal observations, the unsportsmanlike conduct rule in pool hardly seems to carry much consequence when it’s violated.  perhaps not so much in pro events, larger tournaments, or televised events (televised events just present way too much evidence should you behave poorly), but more in the regional and local functions.  i don’t remember the last time i see the unsportsmanlike conduct rule enforced; in fairness to tournament directors, however, it’s difficult to catch someone behaving poorly.  most of the time, unsportsmanlike conduct involves sharking, a typically subtle act that remains invisible unless under close scrutiny.  when the TD has 48 players to watch over without help, one person can only do so much.  perhaps one day the ethical standards of pool players will rise to a respectable level, but i just don’t see that happening now.  the sad part is, one sharker can do a lot of damage to the reputation of a tournament, because you can never tell who will get turned off enough to stop playing the tournament, or worse, tell other people not to participate.

i’m not sure if this will ever work, but here’s my suggestion.  we’ve all heard of the expression “you get more with a carrot than with a stick”.  instead of worrying about punishing players that behave badly, we can maybe try to reward players who behave princely.  maybe a small cash price, or a free entry into the next event.  if there’s a raffle, then maybe free raffle tickets to the most sportsmanlike player.  TD’s can get real creative in the prize department.  we still keep the punishment in place, but at least now there’s an incentive to act like decent human beings.

don’t know if this will or won’t stick.  but i’m putting the idea out there.

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4 comments on “rules without reinforcement are, well . . . you know

  1. It’s a great idea. Now that you’ve put this out there, how will the idea spread? Through my observation, TD’s usually want to be neutral and do not want to piss off players, so they don’t step in unless someone says something. Maybe you can revolutionize the pool industry to be more well-mannered.

    • we’ll see what happens. i think that when you reward good behavior, people are more likely to behave. as far as the details go, i’ll leave that up to the TDs if they decide to try the idea out.

  2. The APA actually has a sportsmanship award at the national championships. It’s a peer-nominated, fill out a form to vote for them kinda thing. It’s something I guess, but I have mixed feelings about it. Do the best sports win? Doubt it. I’m happy if they’re pleasant, leave me alone while I’m shooting, knowledgeable about the rules and honest about fouls, etc. Have I met people like that? Yep. Have I filled out the form thingy for them? Nope. There are hundreds of people there that do the basics of being a good sport. I haven’t really figured out what constitutes going “above and beyond” enough to get a form filled out… maybe bringing freshly baked cookies or something.

    • i’d do freshly baked cookies. but if someone would bring me thai fried rice and that yummy shrimp soup that’s even better. i’d vote for that person. we may even go have coffee. dutch pay, of course.

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