In an effort to put less emphasis on winning and more focus on fun, there have been rumors circulating that youth league sports will start removing scoreboards. Is there any truth to these rumors? Is keeping score at a young age really such a bad idea? Are there adverse effects on our young children?
Sports offer a unique experience to the youth; it shows them that there can be enjoyment in their efforts. Both elements of enjoyment and effort have been proven to be critical in their development. Removing scoreboards would be eliminating a way to measure their efforts.
But ask a youth athlete what they love most about sports and competition, and next to the fun factor, they will tell you that it is the thrill of the challenge.
Parents who are pushing for the removal of score-keeping practices suspect that it is the reason why many kids later decide to not to sign up for the league the following season. However, when children were asked why they quit, they answer that they simply no longer liked the game. There were some that did feel defeated, admitting that they never felt very good and decided to find a new hobby. But there was never a mention of score or how the game results affected their decisions not to sign up for the league the following season.
Parents and sports league organizers who strongly feel that the system remain the same have challenged that removing the scoreboard would be the equivalency of the schools eradicating the grading system. After all, if the only purpose in academics is to learn, then parents should be satisfied by not having any metrics to gauge their efforts and knowledge but just be satisfied that their kids claim they have learned something valuable.
The problem has never been in the score keeping. The problem has been in the involvement of over-zealous parents and coaches who don’t value that the athlete has joined the sport for their enjoyment and effort. When parents and coaches decide that winning is more important than an adverse and measure how much fun a young athlete had based on the number of points they scored, the enjoyment factor is stripped from the young athlete, and this is ultimately why they quit the sport.
Keeping score was never intended to have a negative effect on kids. It was meant to promote joy in competition. Instead of placing the blame on scoreboards as the reason for league drop-outs, perhaps parents and the league organizations should focus on improving the structure of competition rather than removing it entirely.
It has been proposed that the younger athletes should spend less time traveling to compete to focus on more time to play with their friends and simply have fun. This removes the professional sports aspect in youth sports making it more enjoyable and less stressful for the younger kids.
Still, removing score-keeping is gaining popularity for leagues across other countries. But only time will tell what real effects this will have on children who will grow up to realize that life is about keeping score. They will discover it high school and college when they are competing for academic rank and later as adults if their profession requires them to hit a quota or a target.