Soccer should be about skills, not score

(Graphic by Wade Thompson)
(Graphic by Wade Thompson)

Recently, it was announced that the removal of scores and standings will be mandatory for Ontario youth soccer players under the age of 12, as of 2014.

The movement is part of the Canadian Soccer Association’s (CSA) Long-Term Player Development plan (LTPD).  I am not here to explain or justify the program. I am here to explain why the current system is in fact, broken.

The arguments raised against the removal of scores have been, for the most part, from the perspective of parents worried about teaching their kids valuable life lessons on winning and losing.

As a player that was enrolled in youth soccer for over 12 years, I would argue that learning the game of soccer should be the most important lesson.

It’s been roughly six years since my last “youth” soccer game, and since then it’s become quite clear to me that I barely learned anything.

Unlike hockey, soccer is a second language to our country. We are not raised with a ball in our hands. Many of us enter youth soccer with no background knowledge of the game or the proper ways to play. When winning is stressed before players truly understand the game, bad habits form quickly.

If you have ever watched six-year-olds play, you have seen a clump of children follow the ball around the field, and the fastest ones usually end up the heroes.

That was my game for the beginning of my career. I had a lot of success based solely on the fact that I was fast. But as long as you’re scoring goals, no coach is going to stop you and try to correct your kicking technique.

Then all of a sudden you’re 13 and the playing field is more even. Everybody is quicker and stronger and the techniques that used to be successful no longer work.

That was when I realized I had to completely re-learn the game of soccer.

Everything I had done for the past seven years was inapplicable to the way the actual game of soccer should be played. It was a frustrating place to find myself in, and I’m sure I was not alone in that regard.

In my post-soccer career, I have developed a much stronger appreciation for the game by watching it. I have an understanding of it that I didn’t have for most of my playing days.

When played correctly, it truly is a beautiful game. If kids can understand that earlier, their appreciation of soccer culture can grow.

More kids may find themselves watching soccer on TV instead of dismissing it as boring.

Eliminating scores and results will teach young children that there is a game outside of acquiring the all-important ball.

They will be encouraged to pass the ball more and improve their off-the-ball position as well.

At a young age, kids are not as competitive as parents think. Properly learning the game should happen at an age when kids are simply getting enjoyment of being outside and playing with friends.

Then later in life, when they are more competitive, they can go play for wins and losses in a game they truly understand and appreciate. The elimination of scores at an early age may help more kids find the true enjoyment the game of soccer can bring.

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