Losing doesn’t make me want to quit, it makes me want to FIGHT that much HARDER. –Bear Bryant, former football coach at University of Alabama
Continuation of the phone conversation with a leader in our city’s soccer club (see the first part of our conversation in Part 1 of this series: Overuse of Individual Skill Training here):
…”May I ask you why our club is not allowing teams to keep score in the U5-U9 age brackets?” I asked the leader.
“We decided to stop keeping score in the younger age brackets because the parents and coaches were becoming too competitive. Parents were getting rowdy on the sidelines, and certain coaches were not giving players fair playing time. Taking away scoring makes the game of soccer player-centered, not adult-centered. Plus, we want our youth soccer players to focus on skill development instead of winning or losing.” he replied.
“I can see where you are coming from” I said,”But I have to disagree with no scoring being player-centered. Players love to keep score. When you take away scoring, the kids don’t get a chance to experience the feel of a win, and they don’t get a chance to learn how to process a loss. They don’t get to practice sportsmanship in winning and losing, and they don’t get to feel the thrill of competition. The excitement of play-offs at the end of the season has been taken away because there is no score-keeping. Instead, U5-U9 athletes play in a three-game jamboree at the end of the season where medals are awarded to every team – no winning and no losing. So, when scoring is taken away due to the behavior of adults – youth soccer becomes adult-centered, not player-centered. We need to talk to adults about their behavior instead of taking away the scoring and tournament-play from our young athletes.”
Again he replied: “We’re just going to have to agree to disagree.”
I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. -Michael Jordan
In Part 1 of The Downfall of Youth Sports series, I discussed the shock I felt in my first coaches meeting as I learned that my young soccer team would be involved in individual skill development training for the first 8 weeks out of the 10-week soccer season. This wasn’t the only surprise I experienced. I also learned that the club did not allow scoring during games, and would not hold play-offs due to this practice.
As an elementary physical education teacher, one teaching tactic that was always a hit in the classroom was counting/scoring. In the volleyball unit, kindergarten students loved to see how many times they could bump a balloon up in the air without letting it fall to the ground. The students could have participated in this activity for the entire class period without getting bored, as they loved to try and beat their previous score. Second grade students loved to add up the points on their bowling cards at the end of the game to see who had the lowest score in the class. The older students loved to time themselves as they sprinted around the track in preparation for the all-school track meet. All students loved the pedometer unit where they would count their steps during activities – many of them running to get more steps than a friend by the end of recess.
During a sporting event, every player, coach, and fan knows exactly where his or her team stands by looking at the score. The score provides a base of knowledge upon which further decisions can be made in order to be successful. In other words, score-keeping allows us to know if what we’re doing is effective. In turn, scoring is a powerful motivational tool.
Zachary O. Toups, Andruid Kerne, and William Hamilton, 2009 (Texas A&M University), studied motivating play through score and found that:
Score motivates game play by rewarding behavior and providing a gauge of performance, enabling comparison and competition. Players compete individually and collaboratively to maximize score.
Team sports across the nation are taking scoring out of the game in hopes that players concentrate more on their skill development instead of concentrating on the score. Instead, players are less motivated to play as they have no measurement of their performance. In turn, competition declines significantly, and the need for collaboration decreases.
This past summer, I coached my daughter’s U7 soccer team. At the end of the season, the soccer club put on a scoreless tournament for all of the U5-U9 teams in the club. Each team played three games, and at the end of the day, every player was given a participation medal. Even though the club did not keep score, the girls on my team kept score. The girls would have won all three games as they scored more goals than the opposing teams they played. When the girls received their medals, they couldn’t understand why all the other teams were also getting medals. I explained that each player in the tournament was given a medal at the end of the tournament for participating in the tournament. Their response: “At least we still got first place!”
Each and every girl on the team came off the field at the end the day with a red face and a smile. I was proud of them for playing hard, playing well, playing fairly, and for having fun. They had decided on their own to use scoring as a means to reach their goal. Even though the club took away scoring, the girls intrinsically knew they wanted to keep score to gauge their success. When the club takes scoring away from our youth, they’re taking away something that makes each and every game meaningful – in many different ways.
Participating in team sports encompasses a lot – game tactics, individual skills, sportsmanship, collaboration, etc., but players work together to achieve one goal. To score the most goals in a game. It’s not truly a game of soccer, a game of basketball, a game of hockey, or a game of football without keeping score. Players need to keep score, for themselves, for their team, for the love of the game.
Sports teaches you character, it teaches you to play by the rules, it teaches you to know what it feels like to win and lose-it teaches you about life. Billie Jean King, American tennis player, formerly #1 in the world
Author’s background: Erin is certified in K-12 physical education and adapted physical education with a master’s degree in physical education pedagogy. She is also a long-time soccer player and youth soccer coach who loves to share her love of the game with young athletes.