Posted by: G. Lane Cavalier | June 2, 2008

Life: When Do We Start Keeping Score?

This post may be controversial to some, but I finally decided that I wanted to address my thoughts on an issue that has become prevalent in youth sports today.

I have two children that both play soccer. One is in Under 10, the Other is in Under 8.

In both of these leagues we don’t KEEP SCORE, I was told the other day (not sure how accurate the info was) that our leagues don’t even keep the score of the Under 14 and Under 16 leagues.

It makes me wonder, are we raising a generation of children who may never learn the value of reward for effort. In a generation where everyone gets the same trophy, everyone gets the same applause, and everyone is told that we are all equal no matter what our talents and skills may be, are we preparing our children to compete in a global world in which everyone else DOES KEEP SCORE.

When I coached baseball teams in my twenties (both House Leagues and Traveling Leagues), we kept score. As a matter of fact, I used to have a Parents meeting before the season in which I stressed that I wanted to win, and my goal was to teach the kids ( 13 and 14) to Win, but Not Win-at-all-cost. The point I strove to make to the parents of these teams, especially travel teams was that wanting to succeed is what gets you up in the morning, its what drives you to be the best. Knowing you worked hard, played fair, and gave it everything you had if a reward in itself.

So in my opinion, we need to teach kids to keep score. The stress is in the wrong place, we don’t need to teach kids that Winning is the ONLY thing in life, but it’s how you go about winning that matters most and you will only get out of life what you put into it. The current environment rewards not only the kids who work hard and don’t succeed, it rewards the kids who don’t even try.

This has become an even bigger issue in my household because my 10 year old wants to “try out” for a Club Team next week. The Club teams do CUT players and not Everyone Plays. I don’t know if my son will make it, from my perspective, he is good, but maybe not good enough based on watching and evaluating the club teams players compared to his play.

As a Dad, my first thought, is “God, please let him make it, because he will be crushed if he doesn’t.” But then, after my wife and I talked about it, we realize this is a Golden Opportunity for us either way.

If he does make the team, he can have the satisfaction of knowing he worked hard and got rewarded for it. If not, he may learn that life is about hard work and talent, and that not everything in life is going to come easy. I’ll be proud of him either way, and we have told him that. Make the team and we’re proud, don’t make the team and we’re proud that you had a goal and went for it.



  1. Great point! I see this mentality a lot in the homeschooing community. So many homeschoolers don’t give grades, some for very good reasons, but some because they don’t want their children to fail…. While we dont’ normally give grades because they are rather meaningless when only one person is doing the work, so you just have to redo it if it is not correct… we do correct our work and and make notes about passing and failing. Kuddos are given for hard work, neatness and effort and the same is true for poor work and ill effort… those are discussed, marked and redone. Too many times, as a society, we praise everything our kids do.. they KNOW when their effort wasn’t enough and false praise is more harmful than no praise, in my opinion. Real life and work are not like that, so not giving opportunity to try and fail is doing our children and the society that they live in a disservice.

  2. A very tough topic. Glad I’m not a parent. I’d be lousy at it. What if you don’t learn to fail at little things, gracefully, without tears, and with a pain that hurts? Then you don’t learn to go for the gusto, the brass ring, the Pabst Blue Ribbon. (Oops, my biases snuck in.) And leave it all on the court, field, office, home, or life’s timeline.

    I’d suggest that it is a parent’s job to demonstrate that failure and success are two sides of the same coin. Neither result should result in an extreme emotional response. And, also see to it that the child has lots of opportunities to be both outstanding at something and a total failure at something. (Be neat if it was the same thing?) I feel sorry for the brains and a jocks to who everything comes easy. In high school, we had a bunch of them. When they’d get on me about my below average performances across the board, I’d always say “I’m coasting at something I hate. What’s your excuse? If you’re so great, why are you here? And, not in a good school.” I was always ‘nasty’. Got in my share of fights due a ‘smart mounth’.

    The children need scores in somethings. They need to learn that: no matter how good they are, there is always somebody better; no matter how bad you are, there’s always somebody worse; and some days you’re the big dog. And some day’s you’re the fire hydrant. Dog or hydrant, this too will change.

    You have to learn to laugh at yourself. And, big fat old turkeys will self-inflated opinions of how the world should be run.


  3. You have to learn to laugh at yourself. And, AT big fat old turkeys WITH self-inflated opinions of how the world should be run. 🙂

  4. I suspect some of the mentality behind the no score decision might be in a effort to keep the little league parent syndrome to a minimum.
    Unfortunately as a result we are producing is a generation of quitters.

    As long as everyone gets a trophy, everyone wins, everyone plays, the children see things as fun. THat is good But then one day, that stops. Losing is something one must learn to handle as well as winning. Not only the lesson of good sportsmanship but the lesson that improvement is always possible is being lost in the no score concepts.

    The day the everything is play and score doesn’t matter stops comes as a shock to most kids. Suddenly performance is an issue. Suddenly, just having fun is not enough, and unfortunately, suddenly many children have to face the fact that they are just not good enough anymore to play on a team with their friends.

    Some react by giving up altogether and stopping. Some try to win by any means. Yes it is up to parents to teach that losing is fine, but the day my daughter came home from school and said – “Oh, I don’t want to do any sports any more. I am not good enough.” with a bitterness in tone that sounded 30 years older than she was a sad day indeed.

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