By Hailey R.
Children are taught from a young age, if you want something, you have to work for it. Or at least that is how they were taught. These days they don’t have to work or fight for anything, it’s all handed to them. One of the newest controversies is over the Ontario Soccer Association not keeping score until the youth reach a certain age. There are two sides to this story. One side is to stop keeping score, let the children have fun playing and not be worried about winning or losing. Keep them in the sport longer because it is not about which team is the best but just having fun. The other side is children need to learn failure so they can get better. Competition is natural; make children work for it if they want to win. Teach them how to cope with losing and sometimes they won’t always get what they want.
Where is the change? Why is healthy competition no longer encouraged? Can children no longer learn the skills, compete AND have fun? The games haven’t changed. The soccer games children play today are the same ones that were played 20 years ago and yet there were more active children then. So why are children so afraid and discouraged by losing now? Is it the way children are brought up to think about sports? In a study by Sagar and Lavallee (2010) the answer comes from the parents. Children are afraid of failure in sports because of three reasons, punishment from parents, parents’ controlling behaviour and parents’ high expectations.
No wonder so many kids are dropping out of sports if they aren’t successful. The dropout rates for children over 12 are huge. If they aren’t going to be professional athletes, they aren’t enough for their parents. To combat this, organizations have to change the way the game is played. If there are no winners or losers, then parents can’t be disappointed in their children. They aren’t saying cut keeping score all together. Just wait until they know how to actually play.
The Long Term Athlete Development Model emphasizes more practice in the early years as opposed to games. Learn the skill, and then learn to compete and youth will be more successful. They recommend no trophies or rankings below U12. Once again, they mention that it is the parents and coaches who are concerned about the scores while the kids are left on the bench.
So here is my question. If there were no parents sitting watching, and the coaches were properly trained in youth development, would keeping score be an issue? If children didn’t have to answer for why the other team won, would losing be a big deal?
Keilman (2013) is a long term coach who has responded to some of the concerns parents have about the Ontario Soccer Association taking away the score. One of the concerns is that it doesn’t matter anyway because the players keep score in their heads. His response to this is that yes, they will. But it isn’t the kids who are affected by the score, it is the parents. But if the score isn’t official it doesn’t matter as much.
I started this blog post thinking that not keeping score was the worst possible thing they could do to children because they wouldn’t learn how to compete or deal with failure. As I conclude, I realize that it isn’t about saving the kids from the score and the pain of losing. It’s to save them from the pressures of their own parents until they reach an age that they are making intrinsic choices to keep playing, rather than being forced and hating it until they reach an age they can quit.
Grove, J. (2013, January 15). Soccer: Skills, not trophies, lead to success. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
Keilman, J. (2013, June 26). With no score, every kid can win. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 6, 2014, from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-26/news/ct-x-0626-keilman-column-20130626_1_more-kids-score-childhood-obesity
O’Connor, J. (2012, May 1). When there are no winners in sports, everybody loses. National Post. Retrieved November 5, 2014, from http://sports.nationalpost.com/2012/05/01/when-there-are-no-winners-in-sports-everybody-loses/
Sagar, S., & Lavallee, D. (2010). The developmental origins of fear of failure in adolescent athletes: Examining parental practices. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11(3), 177–187-177–187.