My eleven year-old daughter plays recreational soccer in the city.
As the team’s coach, I run them through drills and skills and game situations at practice every week. Then on the weekend, we play a game against one of the nine other teams in the city-wide league.
In each game – as the score mounts – the scoreboard stays silent. The soccer association has mandated that girls at a certain age level should not keep score because it is “damaging to their development”?
Yet, as last game moved into half time, the girls came off the field and were visibly upset that they were down 2-1. The players talked at half about how to get back into the game and “not let this team win”. They had a fabulous second half, filled with energy, excitement and goals. The end result – we scored 3 goals and won 4-2.
Which raises the bigger question – as an organization what does soccer think it is accomplishing in an athlete development context by hiding the scores? The girls know the scores, the parents track the scores and they record them for the team. In short, the girls clearly understand if they have won or lost.
When we lost 6-1 to this amazingly talented group of 11 year olds – was my team devastated? Was their development stunted from the experience? Of course not. When we won 7-2 after playing what could arguably have been their best game of the season, did it go straight to their heads and did they start to look for FIFA contracts? Again, of course not.
We have become so concerned about creating “bubble” children and protecting them from every single emotion – it worries me for what it will do to the next generation of workers. If we have coddled children through loss, helped them avoid actual competition, and not taught them how to win properly, how will they react in a business setting? What kind of workers will they be when they haven’t had the opportunity to experience these highs and lows?
It is a simple answer – they will not be as effective in the workplace and it will be our fault for protecting them at this stage in their lives.
Side Note – When I was nine I joined my first football team. We lost our first game 109-0 (I remember it to this day). I was devastated. But my parents didn’t let me quit and they sent me back to practice the next week. At the end of the season we played that same team. We still lost – but the score was 35-28, and we ran off that damn field like we had won the Grey Cup! An emotional high and a low – that together bound me to the game for the rest of my life.
Imagine the difference had I been protected from scores like they do today?