A good friend of mine coaches his son’s Pre-K soccer team. It fascinated me to find out that when it comes to keeping score at that young age, they don’t. Or at least they’re not supposed to.
Without a score, there isn’t a winner or a loser. But try telling that to the kids. When one of my friend’s players asks him, “What’s the score?” he always tells them, “It’s tied, so you better play hard.” To which the kids will sometimes answer, “No it’s not. We have way more than they do.”
The youth soccer organization my friend coaches for probably put the rule there to protect the feelings of the children and deemphasize competition; to promote love of the game and defang rabid parents who live vicariously though their young children.
This is good in theory, but even if the game is no-score and the tournament doesn’t hand out trophies, we all have a need to see how we stack up in the world. And as my friend’s story illustrates, we start this at a young age.
We all have a driven urge to go out and accomplish something. We need to take pride in things we have earned and achieved. Despite what experts tell you, “being special” isn’t a big achievement and is a flimsy nail on which to hang your self -esteem. After all, in a world where everyone is special, no one is special. Wasn’t that the lesson we all learned from watching The Incredibles?
Competition also helps one learn how to lose gracefully. By losing a ball game, where the consequences are small, it helps a person deal with setbacks and failure later in life. This is an important, learned skill that is necessary to be successful. The person who encounters obstacles and picks himself up to try again and again is the one who will ultimately succeed because the world won’t deny someone who refuses to give up.
As a writer, that skill is essential when you are constantly faced with a mailbox full of rejection letters.
It can be argued that competitive sports puts too much pressure on kids. To those people I would say that children are already exposed to exceeding pressure leading up to the TAKS test. Children have stomach aches, headaches and insomnia and other symptoms of test anxiety before the test because so much emphasis is placed on it. Believe me, when it comes to the TAKS, the schools definitely keep score.
My friend told me that he wasn’t sure what age the teams started tracking winners and losers. However, it doesn’t matter. No matter what, the kids will keep score anyway.