Have you heard about the move to do away with scoreboards in youth sports?
Richard Way, the project lead for Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) with Canadian Sport for Life, says competitive sports do nothing to build self-esteem and positive sportsmanship. He feels that if we remove the focus on winning, players will stay engaged longer.
I shook my head in disbelief as I read their suggestions to remove scoreboards for kids in sports, up to 9 years old. I get the whole 3-6 year old no-score soccer or t-ball. When kids are that little, it really should be all about fun; keeping score should not be a priority at that age. But an 8 or 9-year-old child is old enough to learn the value and the lessons of competition.
Yes, kids get disappointed. Yes, they get angry. Yes, they gloat. Yes, they handle winning and losing badly.
But that does not make competition the bad guy.
It is the job of parents and coaches to show and teach young athletes the value of competing. Competition is rich soil for character growth.
- It teaches kids how to play by the rules. The sooner your child learns this lesson, the more fun he’ll have playing with others as he grows up. Following the rules is a lesson that will keep him out of trouble when he gets into high school or college, when he gets a job, or when he gets married.
- It teaches athletes to give their best effort, no matter what the outcome. A loser can feel good about his efforts because he tried his hardest and a winner may feel as if her victory was especially sweet because she really pushed herself at the end. Our kids need to learn that winning is fun and important, but doing their best in any circumstance is more important.
- It teaches kids how to win and lose. Tennis pro Jim Courier says sportsmanship is when “a guy walks off the court and you really can’t tell whether he won or lost, when he carries himself with pride either way.” Winners shouldn’t gloat and trash talk their opponents and losers shouldn’t pout, throw temper tantrums, or disrespect the team that wins.
- It teaches kids how to persist and fight towards a goal. Winning and losing a sports event is a visible goal. It gives kids something to reach for, something to fight for. It teaches them to persist and not give up just because they are down in the game.
Turning off the scoreboards in all of youth sports will cheat kids out of an opportunity to learn and grow in the face of challenges and competition.
Janis B. Meredith writes a sportsparenting blog, http://jbmthinks.com. She’s been a sports mom for 20 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench. You can also follow her on facebook and twitter.
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