We’ve talked about the “Great Debate” in youth sports before—is everyone really a winner? But in order to have a winner you have to have kept score, right? After all, isn’t the winner the one who did better than the other team? Obviously there are lots of ways one team could do “better” than another during a game but traditionally the scoreboard was how a winner was decided. Much like the Great Debate, there seems to be two camps around the idea of keeping score during a youth sports league. Which side do you as a sports parent or coach fall on?
Yes they should!
One of the most important lessons kids get out of belonging to youth sports league is that there is going to be a winner and there are going to be a loser—and sooner or later you will be on both sides of that fence. No one likes losing, but it’s important to know what it feels like to be on the losing side because sometimes, even if you give it your all, the other guy is going to eek out ahead of you. It might stink but that’s just how life works sometime. It’s important that kids learn that there is nothing wrong with losing either! Losing actually helps you get better in the long run. If you were always on-top you’d have no reason to push yourself or work a little bit harder next time. It’s important that kids learn how to handle being on the losing side of things in youth sports so it’s not as hard a blow later in life if they lose out on something that really matters.
Plus—a little competition is healthy! We want to teach our kids to hustle and work hard for what they want and know that “winning” doesn’t come easy. If sports leagues don’t keep score to determine who won and who lost than whatever the kids did is “good enough.” We want our players to want to win, to want to get better, and to know they need to work for what they want. Those who work the hardest deserve to be rewarded with a win.
And let’s be honest, even if we don’t keep score most kids will probably do it on their own, right? After all, there are usually winners and losers in every other game they play—why should youth sports be any different?
No they shouldn’t.
Sports parents and coaches are putting too much pressure on youth athletes these days to excel and keeping score is just one more way to do that. It’s hard to have fun and actually enjoy playing sports when the only thing anyone seems to care about is the scoreboard. With 70% of kids quitting youth sports by the time they are 13 obviously something needs to change! When winning becomes the only thing that matters a lot of kids don’t want to come back, especially if they are on the losing side more often than the winning.
Something also to consider is not just how the players might react to the scoreboard, but the sports parents. Competition isn’t unhealthy, but the way some sports parents handle it definitely is! Yelling and screaming at each other, the coaches, and the officials; sometimes parents even get into physical altercations—all over the score of a U-7 hockey game? It doesn’t really seem like the scoreboard is worth such bad sportsmanship on the sidelines. What kind of lessons does that behavior teach our players?
Youth sports, especially the really young leagues, should be about having fun and learning the fundamentals. There is plenty of time for kids to learn about winning and losing and the pressure that comes with it—why not just let the players have a good time and worry about the score later?
What do you think? Should youth sports leagues bother keeping score?