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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Who Is Keeping Score?

Who Is Keeping Score?
There is a belief today that children’s sports do not need to have a winner or a loser.  Parents fear that children are too young to learn about losing.  They are afraid of injuring children’s self esteem.  In many children’s games the parents no longer keep score.   No one wins, no one loses, and everyone gets a trophy.

I like the idea of kids five or six getting a trophy for participating in sports.  At that age they get excited and it makes them want to come back the next year.  After the age of six…stop it!  Seven year olds know the trophy is meaningless or at that age they should, and believe me they are keeping score even if the parents are not. 

When I coached seven-year-olds in soccer in the eighties, we kept score.  The teams had won-lost records and the kids on the team with the best record got trophies.  My kids were not on the winning team every year and it did not destroy their self-esteem.  When they won they appreciated the joy of winning.

I learned a lesson about winning at this age when at one practice another coach approached me about having a scrimmage.  I agreed and we had a makeshift game.  Whoever won or lost was not important; this “game” had no impact on the league standings.

For goals we only had cones, so we set them apart about the correct distance for regular games.  There was no crossbar for goal height.  The game was scoreless and we were about to call it quits, when someone on the other team took a shot on goal.  The shot was between the cones, but about 10 feet above where the cross bar would be if we had a cross bar.

The kids on the other team started jumping up and down and called it a goal.  I blew the whistle and objected to the other coach as the shot was way too high to be defended.  The other coach responded casually, “Come on Joe, what’s the difference, it is only a silly scrimmage.”

I felt bad about even arguing the play.  Who really cared, it was just a stupid scrimmage, I ended my protest.

So that was it, the scrimmage ended with the other team “winning” on a ridiculous goal that was in no way a goal, but who really cared.

Then the other team formed a circle and started to chant,

 “Two four six eight, who did we obliterate? Rowdies, Rowdies, Rowdies!!!”  (Our team was the Rowdies.) 

The other kids then all skipped off the field yelling in that little kids way, “We won, we won, you stink, you stink!”

The other coach made no attempt to demand good sportsmanship from his team, and in fact had an annoying grin on his face.  

I let it slide, I was not going to let a bunch of seven-year-olds get my goat, but to the other coach…I was pissed.

One year later, I saw this coach who had an important position at a local bank, stacking shelves at the grocery store.  He had been laid off and stacking shelves in the grocery store was the only work he could find (People today complain about our economy, in the eighties it was way worse.) I felt really bad that this guy had lost his job and went from banker to grocery clerk stacker.

I still had to point out that he put some items on the wrong shelf.


  1. Lots of truth here. My husband coached many sports and he found that the sportsmanship of the parents to be much worse than any player.

  2. I don't agree with this no scoring - everybody wins business. Even kindergarten kids run races against each other, to win of course. Now a lot of kids won't even try to do better, because they know they will be rewarded regardless. How will this benefit them in the workforce?

  3. In my day we loved to win - and if we did it provoked opponents into trying harder. Isn't that what it's all about? Disappointments have to be learned early and not just in the sporting arena.

  4. Bad sportsmanship seems to have carried up through the generations, and maybe even multiplied. There are some schools where rock throwing is common when a team has lost. Emily says some bands yell obscenities at the other band. They are instructed to stand at attention and ignore it, a description I get from several members of the band. The attitude is stupid; I don't get it, except as another kind of bullying.

  5. You're such a good friend Cranky. I'm also sure you had an annoying grin on your face too.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  6. We need to win in order to learn how to lose and we need to lose in order to learn how to win. But first we have to learn to love to play the game... And I really do believe that 'what goes around, comes around ...

  7. After T-ball level, keep score. Encourage the children to do better this time than last time, even if they aren't on the winning team all of the time. And for heaven's sake, remember that your kid is not going to college on a scholarship.

    That, or put your kids in piano lessons instead.

  8. Great story, which reminds me: "You know how many bankers you can get in the back of a pickup truck?'ve gotta leave room for the lawnmowers." I think it's called Karma. :)

  9. We really have gone nuts with trying to build a child's self-esteem. Good grief. Life is about losing and learning to get up and try again.

  10. Hahahaha!

    Oh Joe, that's cold. Well-deserved but cold.

    Somebody is always keeping score.

  11. I totally agree Joe, and mostly with the sportsmanship comment. Being a "good sport" was part of playing whether you won or lost, Sportsmanship was as much a part of playing as playing and I never had one coach that would've put up with poor sportsmanship for a second. Kudos to you for keeping your cool and being so helpful when you saw your fellow coach in the grocery store.

  12. You know the importance of a good ending, Cranky!

  13. I can't stand poor sportsmanship so in this case, Karma had to have been fun for you to enjoy.

  14. On the wrong shelf? He'll never get a trophy that way. Or WILL he?

  15. I must admit to being a tad competitive. Okay, okay, I guess you could say my attitude is, "Winning isn't everything, but losing sucks." (A saying I invoke most frequently after losing a game of pool to my husband.)

    At any rate, not keeping score is ludicrous. Most kids are innately competitive, and knocking it out of them in the guise of "everybody's a winner" will simply make those who might have been high achievers stop working so hard at it. Why bother? Giving accolades, awards, and trophies to those who haven't actually achieved something makes a mockery out of the whole endeavor.


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