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asa_logo4Ideology can be a horrible thing. It sinks the brain in a rut, spitting out automatic responses with no regard to critical thought or empirical evidence. This results in a huge resistance to progress. “Change? No! We were right before, so your new option must be wrong! Actually consider the facts and implications? Nope, not interested.”

This sad fact is now rearing its ugly head in the arena of children’s sports, specifically, soccer. The Alberta Soccer Association is proposing to stop keeping score and tracking wins for children under 12. They tried to push this through earlier, but met with too much resistance from parents. Now, they are trying once more and I’m worried that they may fail to persuade the parents yet again.

So why is this being pushed and what are the concerns of parents? Before we look at the real answer, let’s check in with some commercial media. I’ll start with the pinnacle of mindless, reactionary, things-were-better-with-polio zealotry, The Sun.

“Will it result in coddled kids, less equipped to handle the pressures of winning and losing? Probably.

Will the lack of a score promote a culture of mediocrity, where some kids don’t bother to try, and where the best young athletes are dragged down to the level of the lowest denominator? Pretty much.”

Wow, all it needs is to suggest that this new no-score system will lead to socialism or nazism and it’s like we have our own Fox News. But surely, this troglodyte spewing out baseless claims is in the minority. Other mass media personalities will be at least moderately responsible about what comes out of their mouths and actually look into the issue before spouting ill-informed tripe, won’t they? Sure won’t.

Over in radio land, The Bear’s Yukon Jack, the station’s ranter for the everyman, made a Yap entitled “Sports are for Winning” where he posited that the reason behind the no score movement was ‘winning isn’t important’, declared it “nonsense”, then suggested that without winning, kids would have no reason to try or succeed. Of course, no justification was presented for any of this. But then, it’s pretty hard to present what doesn’t exist.

So what’s actually going on? It’s bigger than soccer. Some few articles will mention that this no-scoring for young children is starting in other sports as well. It’s bigger than that too. Sports Canada, the body dedicated to developing federal policies for Canadians to participate and excel in sports, is putting out a massive amount of programs and research dedicated to getting Canadians active for life. They are pushing for all sports to use the Long Term Athlete Development Model . Indeed, some sports have already implemented much of the LTAD model with great success. The mass of research, study, work, and data supporting the LTAD model is staggering. And guess what? Not only is keeping score not important at a young age, it’s harmful.

The load of moronic BS myth is that ‘without winning, children won’t be competitive or motivated to do well’.

LTAD recommends the removal of KEEPING score, not the removal of scoring. People who confuse the two are insulting the intelligence of children. Kids know full well when they kick the ball into the net, hit the ball with the bat, or run all the way to the end zone without being stopped, they’ve achieved. They will feel the rush of success, the thrill of triumph, and the burning desire to do it again. All the motivation, encouragement, and fun one could ask of sports, and no one loses.

In the simpler world of children, losing is failure, losing is being a bad player, losing isn’t fun, losing can be the end of the world. The message ‘you’re a loser’ being pounded into a young mind has disastrous consequences.

The first response to this point is usually something like ‘it builds character and perseverance’. No, for most kids that age, it doesn’t. What it builds is a dislike of sports and aversion to activity. “Why be active and be called a loser when I can play video games? At least video games are fun.” A huge part of the obesity problem we currently face is people are not active enough. Hardly surprising when old school “character building” is teaching kids that sports are for the few elite winners, not for fun.

The other response is ‘kids need to learn about losing, or they’ll be ill prepared for it later’. I can’t help but see claims like this as deliberately dense, as they are wrong on a couple of levels. One, learning to have fun playing sports is crucial to seeing what is really important, which will, ultimately, develop a healthy attitude towards losing when the child gets older. Two, ‘losing’ is ubiquitous in today’s society. It’s a part of almost all games, activities, and all kinds of social engagements. Taking losing out of sports won’t suddenly make ‘losing’ a surprise.

Children need to learn to have fun playing sports, or you end up with a huge chunk of the population who have all kinds of health problems associated with low levels of activity. Once the love of sports is built in, not only will you have a much more active population, training for high level competition is much more likely to happen later in life for a lot more people.

I point this out, not because it’s the way I was raised. Not because I identify with a group that feels this way. Because that’s what mountains of research has shown to be effective.

Just as they didn’t poll parents when they brought in child seat regulations, I feel it is inappropriate to decide whether to go ahead with LTAD based on what parents think. The information is available. Being willfully ignorant of it to the detriment of children is neglectful and borderline abusive. It should not be an option. Not to say that the LTAD model is perfect. There is still lots to work out in terms of ideal implementation. And I definitely am not denying the possibility of improvement, but hashing out these details is not the discussion that’s being had.

Society should always want better for their children. Improvement of this kind demands we move beyond the ‘it-was-good-enough-for-me’ mentality. This would be expedited significantly if media personalities would actually do a bit of research, speak honestly, and not automatically resort to the traditonal-bootlicking, comfortzone-pandering, misinformation-spreading, ignorance-enabling clap trap that currently pollutes our culture.

Links:

Sports Canada

Sports for Life

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