David Thompson


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June 07, 2010



What a great message they're sending the kids: "Don't try harder. We'll just hobble the good players."


Why not cut to the chase, and quickly score 6 own goals. You win!

The original rule (ignoring goals above 5) made greater sense. Personally, having seen my daughter's team utterly thrash an unprepared opponent, I'd have to say it makes sense. By the time it was 6-0, the other side just looked so totally demoralized, and the goalie had just given up, and was fighting back the tears. Something to lighten their mood a little would have been fine by me, as far as I am concerned.


"I'm not quite clear how penalising competence squares with the professed ideals of sportsmanship."

I thought sportsmanship meant always playing your best for your team and for the sake of the game. Not deliberately playing badly just to spare the other team's feelings.


The parent's "right to insult or belittle the organization" is no more dependent on the registration fee than is our right to insult and belittle the organization. It is inalienable. Actually, it's more of an obligation than a right.

I have an alarming, discreditable urge to find the alleged adults who invented this idiocy, and shoot spitballs at them until they wet themselves, burst into tears, and run off to tell the teacher.


I know, if you're winning 4-0 you have to wear a blindfold and wooden boots. It's social justice!


For once, I am genuinely speechless. I just cannot fathom the thought processes of the people who thought this would somehow be an improvement. I can only assume they are people that hate sport.

And I thought I hated sport! Clearly, I've a long, long way to go to reach these dizzying heights!

Brian, follower of Deornoth

Presumably good sides would be better at scoring own-goals whenever necessary.

Look forward to a lot of results like 104-108.

Chris S.

Forget wooden boots, the winners should be awarded the Stone Of Triumph!


Having lost 20 or so-nil a few times playing for Stratton Pups, an under-10 team playing in an under-12s league, I can see where they're coming from. At this age some of the mismatches are pretty bloody. Anyway, isn't there some research suggesting that there's too much emphasis on competition rather than the development of skills in most children's football, certainly in England? It's one of the reasons we end up with the long-ball game apparently.

Brian H

What happened to losing with dignity?


It seems to me that Stoicism is the first target of socialists. Probably because socialism is akin to permanent childhood looking for an adult to care for them and Stoicism is THE core emotion of Adulthood.


Ohforchrissakes. When I read this post I assumed we were only talking about the 10 & under crowd. The linked article references a "Kevin" who is 17.

As for skills development, playing the game is the point of the skill. Practice is for the development. Not qualified to discuss the merits of the long-ball game or its impact on English soccer but it begs the question: Is long-ball detrimental to winning in international play or is it just not aesthetically pleasing? If it's the latter, then art is probably more your "sport" and leave
(ahem) "football" to your betters the yobs.

In the older age brackets, shouldn't the league have some responsibility to distribute talent across the teams? I mean I can understand with the younger ones it’s hard to discern who and how well they will develop. But by the age of 12 or so you should be able to do some degree of talent balancing. As others point out, why isn’t the "slaughter rule" good enough?

Also, what AC1 said.


I am reminded of the rather amusing 1980s Radio 4 comedy 'Lenin of the Rovers':



Heh, forgot the original point which prompted me to respond on this...To properly call this "Socialist" football, shouldn't the penalty be to just add any scores after five goals to the side that is losing? Thus once you would still be able to maintain a five goal lead without losing. This is more like "Communist" football. Under this system if you get more than a five goal lead the other team takes all of your stuff. Of course the next step will probably be to "execute" any teams that refuse to learn by throwing them out of the league. Nah...that will never happen...


You can't change only one thing.

The kids on better teams may start competing for how many default losses they can accumulate (Three wins, two losses and nine default losses! You've only got four! You suck!). Or, if coaches don't stop them, they'll start kicking the ball into their own net once they're five up ("Twelve wins, two losses and thirty-nine own-goals! You've only got twenty-two own-goals! You suck!)

carbon based lifeform

Losing because you were outplayed is depressing but you can learn from it and (hopefully) play better next time. It's how you develop. Losing because you played TOO WELL is insane and teaches kids... what?


The rule applies to kids up to the age of 18.


What Retardo said!

I am the past president of a minor hockey association. While I would like to assert (or would've liked to have asserted...) that parents and players don't have the right to ridicule or belittle me, I am all too aware of the obvious rejoinder: "if you don't like being ridiculed, then stop being so bloody ridiculous!"



“Losing because you played TOO WELL is insane and teaches kids... what?”

How to be a resentful egalitarian, perhaps? (I know, the “resentful” is pretty much redundant.) I doubt it’ll encourage players to be ambitious, tenacious, resilient or stoical, any of which would be more useful.


It could be fun watching each team trying to stop the other team scoring in its own goal.


Life can crush you sometimes and learning how to deal with that is critical. For my money learning that lesson on the field of sport is the best place for it, as the meaning of it is somehow less real then it will be in areas like relationships and jobs. This association thinks they are protecting these kids, but in reality they are robbing them of the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Ric, Perth Western Australia

Oh that wonderful all encompassing socialist word that pops up everywhere..."Fair"...So if the definition of fair is... free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice: a fair decision; a fair judge. How does this equate to the fact that half the team is having an injustice foisted upon them??

But maybe the socialist thinking can be summed up by the following...

The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slave of some defunct economist.


The people who came up with this rule must have been on the recieving end of a lot of atomic wedgies when they were in school. So many, in fact, that it appears to have damaged the part of the brain enabling common sense and logic.

I do wonder how often the situation governed by this rule actually arises, and if it was pushed by one or a few parents whose kids were on the wrong side of a lopsided score. Which begs the question of whose fragile egos are being protected, the kids or the parents.


Judas priest - just rule that if a team gets six points ahead you call it a skunk, hand victory to the victors, cut off the losers from needless humiliation, and send everyone out for ice cream. Right?

Ted S., Catskills, NY

Apologies if this shows up twice, but the first time I posted it seemed to disappear into the ether:

I think it can't be repeated and emphasized enough that the people who come up with ideas like this *don't* have good intentions for the children.

Among the many negative consequences are that it makes a virtue out of jealousy; it teaches children that success is a bad thing; and it tells children that the way to get what you want is to complain constantly.

I've commented elsewhere on the internet that Roman Polanski could only rape one girl at a time, and that physical harm can be overcome, if not without difficulty. But by inculcating counterproductive moral lessons, what these people are doing is harming a whole bunch of children, and in ways that are much more difficult to recover from.

H. Nolle

Great idea !! Should be extended to horse racing : any horse that wins by more than 5 lengths automatically loses the race .


I've been on both sides of big score differentials, and ending a game, or worse, handing us a "victory" would have hurt more than any lopsided score would have. I remember losing to a team 69-3 or so my junior year of college out in San Diego, and I remember using that embarrassment as motivation to get in the gym and get ready for the next year. Just handing someone a victory does nothing but create anger and resentment on both sides.
It could have been so much better: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/news/story?id=5218228

David, Sunshine Coast, Australia

Reminds me of Homer's advice to Bart:- "Well son, you tried and you failed miserably. The lesson to be learned is never try." I'll make a bold prediction and say that none of the kids in that team will become high achievers - at least in the game of soccer.

Karen M

"they are simply trying to make it fair."

If only they could change the rules so nobody had to win.

Horace Dunn

Children will know what the rules of football are, so any imposition of arbitrary rules by the adults on the high-scoring team will result only in increased resentment towards both the interfering adults and the smug “winning” team. Furthermore, the “losing” team members, knowing themselves to be the rightful winners will be inclined to be less – ahem – magnanimous towards their opponents than they otherwise might have been.

Meanwhile the “winning” team members will understand that their victory is no source of pride, and that they are, rather, the objects of patronage. To the extent that “winners” will allow themselves to feel the glow that real winners feel, they are merely indulging in emotional dishonesty.

It is difficult to see what possible good is being done here, unless one assumes that the participants are all too stupid to suss out the artificiality of the set-up. And who’d have thought that lefties were such poor judges of human nature?


I think teams ought to strive for a default loss as a badge of skill and honor.


The people who make these rules, I'm lookin' at you Sean Cale, always forget the that the children in question aren't stupid.

Both of my sons play GAA sports here in Dublin, and for the first few years (5 & 6 year olds) there are no scores in the matches. Miraculously they all end in a draw. However, several times after the final whistle has blown I've heard children exclaim something to the effect of "We got two goals and they got none! We won it wasn't a draw!" Mr. Cale may think he's making it "fair" (definitely deserves the scare quotes there I think) but the children will always know who the winners and losers are.

Several others have brought this up but I was wondering, if you were at the bottom of the league table at the end of the year due to default losses would that make you the best team?


What makes me think Sean "chairperson" Cale didn't do well in sports at school? Thirty years later... payback!


Brian wrote: "Look forward to a lot of results like 104-108."

And ALL of them will be own goals.


Can you help wean Londons art scene away from extortion funding?


Spiny Norman

Wouldn't it far more sense to set up leagues where the teams are more evenly matched, like one with upper and lower divisions so mis-matches would be avoided.

Or is that just too logical?

Rich Rostrom

Gaw wrote: Anyway, isn't there some research suggesting that there's too much emphasis on competition rather than the development of skills in most children's football, certainly in England?

The "Everton Way" (the training system developed by Everton FC) basically says that kids should not even be thinking about winning or losing till they are 16. Everton has been very successful with their system.

Spiny Norman wrote: Wouldn't it far more sense to set up leagues where the teams are more evenly matched...

Not something that is trivial to do, especially with a children's league where a lot of players are novices and there is tremendous turnover from year to year. Also the pool of players available may vary tremendously among areas, and a team with energetic organizers is likely to have a lot more good players.


Definitely parental projection. Youth soccer in North America seems to be the sport of choice for parents who would really rather their child play the piano and run triathlons, but who grudgingly accept that team sports can be "good for socialization skills" provided they are "fair". The soccer Mom syndrome, gender-integrated leagues, no scorekeeping, and other Oprah-inspired innovations never seem to gain a foothold in hockey or football, etc., probably because there is no weight of tradition in soccer over here. Few kids playing soccer could name a professional star whose picture graces their bedroom wall and who they dream of emulating. A lot of the parents seem to think they can paint an ideal game on a blank canvass.

There is a pretty good argument in pre-teen leagues for restricting the number of goals any one player can score, because defence skills are the last to develop and the gulf between stars and ordinary players is wider. However, I really question the assumption that kids (as opposed to the parents) are scarred by a blowout. In my coaching experience, kids need as much psychological TLC after losing a tight game by a late goal.

Another Steve

My son's involvement in junior football from age 9 saw him and his team-mates endure some terrible defeats and equally record some big wins, but that was just the nature of junior footy. Everyone understood that was how it was.

So while there were bad mismatches the kids stuck at it by and large eventually it got sorted out by the miracle of promotion and relegation each season. By the time most kids get to 16 they know whether they fall into the category of being good or not, and to be honest most poor players soon find other things to do with their time than struggle with a game they aren't good at.

Some nice kids gave up after a couple of years, some went on to play professional football. Most just accepted there were good days and bad days on the pitch and got on with it.

Bit like life, really.


Yeager: You got any Beemans or don't you?
Ridley: Yeah, I got a stick.
Yeager: Then loan me some; I'll pay you back later.
Ridley: You know, even before you hit Mach 2, she's going to be mighty unforgiving on you.
Yeager: Well then, how about 2.04? I wouldn't want to hurt Scott Crossfield's feelings.
Ridley: You're mighty right.


Raised by grandparents, and myself well into middle age, I am an admitted anachronistic. What I find most interesting is the near unanimity among the comments herein that sneer -- not only at the silly rules the author decries -- but indirectly at ye olde tyme definition of sportsmanship... as my grandfather taught it to me, anyway. That if one is leading 100 to naught, one is by definition a prat, and ought to go home and think strongly about why one's coach did not put in the lesser experienced players when the score got to 20 to naught, since it was equivalent to a sin to SHOVE IT DOWN THEIR BLOODY THROATS. Today, what with the way leagues break ties by looking at how completely each team obliterated others, there is now a disincentive to civil behavior in sport... which has, from the predominance of the comments herein, spread to every corner and utterly displaced ye old tyme honor and sportsmanship. NOT that sportsmanship ought to be mandated by silly rules... but it ought to be fostered by honorable parents and coaches. Sad, really, that such civility has lapsed to the point of ridicule. We ought to demonstrate to each new generation that we have control over our own appetites.


Myno...My..No. Old fashioned you think you are? Here's an old fashioned idea, when you get your nose bloodied, stand up and fight back. Here's another idea, stick to the point. This issue and subsequent discussion are not noteworthy because the league chose to deal with runaway contests. It was HOW they dealt with them. Giving "victory" to the loser is the problem here. I don't see any objections to ending the game after a 5-0 lead. If the league iimplements a tie-breaking system dependant upon score differentials, then the league should address that. The league has many, many options shy of taking victory from the true victors and handing it to the true losers.

As for "why one's coach did not put in the lesser experienced players "...what if the coaches did do that? There is no indication that they did not. The second string players are rested AND excited about the opportunity to play. Are they supposed to just lay down? What is the point of the game at that point? Just call the damn thing and be done with it. But then of course the second string doesn't get their opportunity. Have you considered their position? Please impart upon us more of your old-school wisdom once you've worked out all of the conseuences.


This story really blew up in the local papers. The league clarified the fact that in the event of a blowout, BOTH teams register losses - so nobody wins. However, it is still a "victory" for the losers as they can keep up with the better teams in the standings.

I can just picture a league table where the last place team has no wins, all losses but 150 goals for and none against. Of course the "own goal" dimension adds a completely bizzare twist. Can referees disallow blatant own goals? If not you can end up with a situation where each team is trying desperately to defend their opponents net.

The end game celebration will not be "we win!" but "you lose!".

sackcloth and ashes

I think we have the antidote here:


'Congratulations on being selected for Team 7 (forest green shirts) of the Scituate Soccer Club! My name is Michael and I have been fortunate enough to be selected to coach what I know will be a wonderful group of young ladies. Chris Mac will also be coaching and I expect the ever popular Terry to return to the sidelines. Our first game will be Saturday April 4 at 10:00AM. There will be a half hour of skills followed by a 1 hour game, so total time will be 1.5 hours. All games will be played on the fields in the front of the High School. Each player will be required to wear shin guards and cleats are recommended but not required. A ball will be provided to each player at the first meeting, and each player should bring the ball to games and practices. There is no set practice time allotted for the U8 teams, but I will convene with the coaches to determine the best time and place. If there are cancellations due to rain, all notices will be posted via the Scituate Soccer Club website, no calls will be made (though I will try to send an email). Attached is the Schedule and Code of Conduct. After listening to the head of the referees drone on for about 30 minutes on the dangers of jewelry (time which I will never get back), no player will be allowed to play with pierced ears, hairclips, etc. We used to tape the earings, but that practice is no longer acceptable. Please let me know if your child has any health issues that I need to be aware of. My home phone is 781 XXX XXXX, my cell number is 781 XXX XXXX, and I check my email frequently. According to my wife, my emails get too wordy, so for those of you read too slowly, are easily offended, or are too busy, you can stop here. For the others……

OK, here’s the real deal: Team 7 will be called Green Death. We will only acknowledge “Team 7” for scheduling and disciplinary purposes. Green Death has had a long and colorful history, and I fully expect every player and parent to be on board with the team. This is not a team, but a family (some say cult), that you belong to forever. We play fair at all times, but we play tough and physical soccer. We have some returning players who know the deal; for the others, I only expect 110% at every game and practice. We do not cater to superstars, but prefer the gritty determination of journeymen who bring their lunch pail to work every week, chase every ball and dig in corners like a Michael Vick pit bull. Unless there is an issue concerning the health of my players or inside info on the opposition, you probably don’t need to talk to me. Coach MacDonald has been designated “good guy” this year.

Some say soccer at this age is about fun and I completely agree. However, I believe winning is fun and losing is for losers. Ergo, we will strive for the “W” in each game. While we may not win every game (excuse me, I just got a little nauseated) I expect us to fight for every loose ball and play every shift as if it were the finals of the World Cup. While I spent a good Saturday morning listening to the legal liability BS, which included a 30 minute dissertation on how we need to baby the kids and especially the refs, I was disgusted. The kids will run, they will fall, get bumps, bruises and even bleed a little. Big deal, it’s good for them (but I do hope the other team is the one bleeding). If the refs can’t handle a little criticism, then they should turn in their whistle. The sooner they figure out how to make a decision and live with the consequences the better. My heckling of the refs is actually helping them develop as people.

The political correctness police are not welcome on my sidelines. America’s youth is becoming fat, lazy and non-competitive because competition is viewed as “bad”. I argue that competition is good and is important to the evolution of our species and our survival in what has become an increasingly competitive global economy and dangerous world. Second place trophies are nothing to be proud of as they serve only as a reminder that you missed your goal; their only useful purpose is as an inspiration to do that next set of reps. Do you go to a job interview and not care about winning? Don’t animals eat what they kill (and yes, someone actually kills the meat we eat too – it isn’t grown in plastic wrap)?

And speaking of meat, I expect that the ladies be put on a diet of fish, undercooked red meat and lots of veggies. No junk food. Protein shakes are encouraged, and while blood doping and HGH use is frowned upon, there is no testing policy. And at the risk of stating the obvious, blue slushies are for winners.

These are my views and not necessarily the views of the league (but they should be). I recognize that my school of thought may be an ideological shift from conventional norms. But it is imperative that we all fight the good fight, get involved now and resist the urge to become sweat-xedo-wearing yuppies who sit on the sidelines in their LL Bean chairs sipping mocha-latte-half-caf-chinos while discussing reality TV and home decorating with other feeble-minded folks. I want to hear cheering, I want to hear encouragement, I want to get the team pumped up at each and every game and know they are playing for something.

Lastly, we are all cognizant of the soft bigotry that expects women and especially little girls, to be dainty and submissive; I wholeheartedly reject such drivel. My overarching goal is develop ladies who are confident and fearless, who will stand up for their beliefs and challenge the status quo. Girls who will kick ass and take names on the field, off the field and throughout their lives. I want these girls to be winners in the game of life. Who’s with me?'

The 'Michael Vick pit bull' comment may have been OTT (and I still think Vick should have had his surviving dogs set on him as a punishment), and I guess he was probably joking about doping, but this is a mission statement to be proud of.


Just wait till they start handicapping the track team...

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