Keeping score in youth sports doesn't matter
As a general rule television doesn't do much for the mind, but occasionally channel surfing can offer something that stimulates thought.
A few days ago on one of the outdoor channels there was a debate about whether kids who were learning to "fish competitively" should actually keep score by counting the number of fish they caught.
What that brought to mind was the debate about whether kids should keep score in sports.
It's a question most every parent has to struggle with at some point in his or her child-rearing and it's a question without an easy answer.
There used to be no doubt about it. You played games as a kid and you kept score. Every time you stepped on home plate, it was one more run. Every basket you made counted for two points. Every time you hit the golf ball it was a stroke. No questions asked.
But then times and philosophies changed.
Suddenly it seemed like adults thought sports for kids were great but they wanted to make sure it didn't damage the self-esteem of their children. And they wanted to make sure that every kid – including their own – got an equal chance to play the game.
The way to do that, people figured, was to not bother with keeping score. Let the kids run around and have fun and kick the ball or trip over it. Just as long as nobody felt bad when the game was over.
Oh, there was always a parent standing on the sideline shouting encouragement or instructions to his or her child. But the other parents looked at the shouter with contempt and pity.
When the game is over we all go get a pizza.
The other side of this coin, of course, is that children must learn that there are winners and losers in life, just as in a game. The argument is that by not keeping score you are creating a sense of equality that will soon be dispelled when the kids get older and they play on a winning or a losing team.
There is also the argument that life is not fair and there are winners and losers in life and kids better get used to it.
I think there is something missing in the debate over keeping score or not.
There are two things that are important in kids' sports. First, I think they should have fun. If there is pressure to win, or winning is the goal, some kids won't play and those who do will feel pressure to score goals or get points. Winning becomes the most important thing for these kids.
The second thing is that by keeping score you may not allow for the development of the kind of skills that will make a kid better athlete when they get older.
Use soccer as an example. When winning is the object, kids may well not learn how to pass or spread the field. The biggest and most athletic kid will dominate the game and the rest of the players will stand around watching.
Let these kids learn to play the game the right way without the intrusive element of scoring and I think everybody will be happy.
Except that out-of-control parent shouting on the sideline.
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First off, kids don't need to be taught that there are winners and losers. They already KNOW it. Kids aren't stupid - they can tell when another kid is better or worse, smater or dumber then they are. They already get it. There is a wonderful report published by WPRI (August 2011) Called "Why Competition Works" That talks about how competition is what promts us to perform better, to become smarter, to think faster, and to be more creative. I think people confuse "competition" with "aggression". Aggression is destructive. Competition gets us moving. In that sense, the score is just proof of who moved better in that particular event. Not keeping score creates the illusion that we're all performed the same. Which means there's no reason to try to improve one's skills....or to leave one game in search of the game that sparks their passion and allows them to grow where they are talented. KEEP SCORE!
youth_coach | Nov. 28, 2012 at 1:05 p.m. (report)
A good compromise, and what worked well for my kids, is to start keeping score after their entry-level age. For us it was after they completed the 5-7 age range in baseball, when they were still hitting from a tee. As adults we want to protect our kids from downs that competitive sports, and scores, can bring. But we are underestimating the kids resilience and understanding of the concept of competition. If you take the scoring out of youth sports, guaranteed the kids will find a way to keep score themselves. They will also wonder what is wrong. Kids understand sports involve scores, and that there are winners and losers. Why? Because its what they see when the game played at all other levels - pro, college, high school, etc. Most important is teaching a love for the game and that you can have fun whether you win or lose. Not a hard concept to teach most kids, its the parents who tend to focus more on the final score. Kids will get over the game VERY quickly, like in minutes. Ive coached multiple youth sports at multiple age levels, and while I used to be on the fence on this scoring issue. Until I realized that the kids want to keep score. They can handle it. Yes, there are emotional responses, especially as they get older. But that is what ultimately builds them as individuals, and teammates. Dealing with their emotions and different situations makes for great life training. Some of the greatest opportunities to coach come after a big win or a big loss. Like sometimes you can work real hard and still come up short, and thats still a successful endeavor even though you lost. And from winning, like seeing their hard work pay off and showing good sportsmanship and being respectful of the other team after the game- knowing they tried their hardest.
If you want kids to have fun and not keep score, STOP ORGANIZING TEAMS! Believe it or not, we were perfectly capable of organizing our own games and teams as kids. We learned from each other, had fun, got exercise and generally had a good time. Those which enjoyed the sport and wanted to become more competitive moved on to more organized teams. Those that did not, continued to play for fun or moved on to something else. When I moved on to an organized sport (mine happened to be softball/baseball), you are darn right score was kept!! And it should have been. Losing always taught me a lot more than winning. Winning makes it easy to overlook areas you can improve upon - Losing made you focus. Don't like the feeling of losing? Work hard and get better. It also taught me that losing wasn't the end of the world. There was always tomorrow. And, when life today doesn't work out exactly as I had planned, that is a vital lesson that I fall back on. I'm afraid the children of today won't have the same opportunity.
Not keeping score is done for non-achievers. Keep score to recognize the achievers in society.
Boooooo Hoooooo Boooooo Hooooo - watch out, it's the wailing siren of the Hurt Feelings police. Just what society needs, another aspect of life that will further indoctrinate kids to strive for mediocrity. An entire generation of youths who stand on third base for eternity, because they were taught not to go for home. Sounds like a winning formula. Errrr...wait... we don't want to call it that. Sounds like a feel-good time-formula. Yea!
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