Let the kids play: Capping scores caps their character

Josh Barnstable Roar Rookie

By Josh Barnstable, Josh Barnstable is a Roar Rookie


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    Earlier this week, it was announced the Riddell District Football League were introducing a score-capping system in junior matches to prevent one-sided matches and promote participation.

    In U16s, the margin is capped at 80 points, 60 points for U14s, and 48 points in U12 matches. Goalkickers and best players have also been removed.

    As expected, this move has been met with waves of criticism, and rightly so. From my personal experience, losing football matches helped build character more so than winning.

    I started playing competitive football at the age of nine, playing against kids as old as 14. In a region where there were as many as eight clubs across three different leagues in a 30-kilometre radius, talent was widely spread out.

    At my club, we had considerably less star power than most. From the age of nine to 17, we would have experienced no more than 20 wins, regularly finishing in the bottom two of the ladder. We were the easy beats every year, and we would often walk off the field looking at a scoreboard with 0.0 (0) up against a hefty opposition scoreline. Did this have a negative impact growing up? I can only speak for myself, but definitely not.

    Sure, losing every week sucked, so did the constant ribbing you got from friends at school who played for more successful teams. You always wanted to be on the right end of the result against fellow schoolmates.

    Do I wish I was able to claim bragging rights once or twice? Of course, but it certainly doesn’t keep me up at night. Losing builds character. Losing week after week builds grace. Losing year upon year makes the rare taste of victory all the more worthwhile and rewarding.

    Every year, there was always one team that we were either an even match for, or much better than. Our game against this team, whoever it was, was always keenly anticipated by myself and fellow teammates. When the prospect of winning was there, when we could sniff the four points, things just seemed to work better.

    Kicks hit the target, marks stuck and clearances were won, possibly in part because of the decline in opposition talent, but I digress. Names that weren’t normally prominent in the team would suddenly come to the fore. He would play a blinder and get named in the best. And this brings me to my next point.

    Removing the list of best players and goalkickers is a shocking decision by the RDFL. If I managed to play well enough or snag a goal, reading my name on the league website and in the local newspaper on a Monday morning brought an inexplainable thrill.

    Where’s the reward for good performance? What if a talented but unassuming back pocket player is thrown forward and manages to kick a few goals? Don’t tell me that he or she isn’t looking forward to looking up the results in the coming days.

    As mentioned, when we would come up against a team that we actually had a chance of beating, we would usually show no mercy. The frustrations of experiencing defeat after defeat would be taken out on the opposition, and we would record a big win. It made the previous losses seem worth it.

    It made going to training on cold Tuesday and Thursday nights actually seem useful. For those who played in the forward line and were usually starved of opportunities, they relished the chance to kick a bag.

    I am sure there similar cases like this in the RDFL, but they are stripping these kids the opportunity to see a big juicy number next to their name in the goalkickers section of the newspaper. It’s shameful.

    What kind of message does this send to kids between the ages of 12 and 16? While it does promote competitiveness, it removes the notion of winning and losing. The feeling of succeeding and falling short is something best taught on a football field or a netball court and not in a classroom.

    In a world where people are finding more and more ways of shielding our children from the struggles of everyday life, sometimes we are better off just letting the kids play and working it out for themselves.

    Put the onus back on the parents and teach them that grace in defeat is just as important as humility in victory, and let’s stop living in a world where everybody is a winner.

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    The Crowd Says (10)

    • July 14th 2017 @ 5:38am
      Kane said | July 14th 2017 @ 5:38am | ! Report

      Well said mate.

    • Roar Guru

      July 14th 2017 @ 9:23am
      Paul D said | July 14th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      Riddell are saying that constant heavy defeats was one of the main reasons young players are leaving the game. Maybe kids today haven’t got the patience for slow burn character building through endless defeats.

      Not sure this is going to fix it, they’d be better off re-arranging teams or forcibly breaking up stacked sides, which is a sort of socialist mechanic that does appear in the real world

    • Roar Guru

      July 14th 2017 @ 9:48am
      Wayne said | July 14th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      So in my experience of being young once and working with kids. They know the score, they know they lost.Its more for the parents than the kids.

      Character building was walking out to the U13s preliminary finals being told the result doesnt matter, go have fun.

      We built more character in grand final. NEHC vs Adelaide Red. Past 3 meetings, 3-9, 0-11, 0-4. I remember because I was goalie. Drew final 4-4. 5-4 in extra time!

      Those losses, especially the 11 goal loss made the GF more important 🙂
      We all knew we were in for a flogging.

    • Roar Guru

      July 14th 2017 @ 11:53am
      Dalgety Carrington said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

      While the scoring cap is a clunky and forced solution, the idea that such a small part of kids lives that is the end result of a game of footy will play any significant part in “building character” is massively overestimated.

      It’d be more fair to say it reveals character, rather than builds it, and that character is built in the more substantial areas of their lives like at home, in school or with their friends.

      Winning and losing are just concepts that we overlay ourselves and it’s more likely to aid character building if kids are able to put in a full effort for their team and mates (or for their own personal sense of effort and development), rather than it being too tied to the more unsubstantial and artificial idea of winning.

      • July 14th 2017 @ 12:46pm
        I ate pies said | July 14th 2017 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

        Winning is an artificial idea? Interesting. Please elaborate.

        • Roar Guru

          July 14th 2017 @ 4:04pm
          Dalgety Carrington said | July 14th 2017 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

          The point I was making that it was less real than putting in effort and working with your teammates and the like. But winning is something we construct, you can only feel like you win, you can’t really see or touch winning, only things related to what we feel about winning.

          What we feel about winning is very malleable too and you can “win” a game, but not feel as satisfied than another time where you put in more effort and didn’t win. You could also cheat and “win” (which isn’t very character building).

    • July 14th 2017 @ 5:16pm
      Slane said | July 14th 2017 @ 5:16pm | ! Report

      It never ceases to amaze me how the ‘anti-pc’ brigade continually get this one wrong. It has been shown scientifically that participation/skill development is far more important in the early teens than winning. All around the country there are teams with a couple of players who developed physically much earlier than their peers and are dominating their respective leagues. Invariably these teams become focused on winning games through getting the ball to the big guy as much as possible. Great for bringing home premierships but no so great for developing skillsets and bringing new people to the game.

      The ‘anti-pc’ brigade thinks these rules are introduced to shelter children from losing. In reality these rules are being introduced to broaden the player base, introduce genuine game structures and teach the kids how to play. Gone are the days of kicking it long to the 6’3″ twelve year old with a moustache. Now we are entering and era where every youngster has a chance to learn and show their wares and our +16 year old teams will reap the benefits.

      • Roar Guru

        July 15th 2017 @ 1:21am
        Dalgety Carrington said | July 15th 2017 @ 1:21am | ! Report

        Absolutely Slane. And at the end of the day, you ain’t going to get no winning if you don’t participate anyways.

      • July 15th 2017 @ 3:10am
        Pope Paul VII said | July 15th 2017 @ 3:10am | ! Report

        I’m not sure comrades, you need to know your worth on the field. Plenty of shorties took down gentle giants. The main thing about kid footy is self belief. The outcome is indeed irrelevent but plenty will reflect ruefully on a smashing when they score a win later.

        • July 15th 2017 @ 3:58am
          Slane said | July 15th 2017 @ 3:58am | ! Report

          Again, these rules aren’t there to protect kids from a hiding, they are there to encourage skill growth, participation in the sport and the coaching of genuine football tactics. The more kids we can teach how to play the game the higher the standard of our players will be. It’s the model that FIFA and the NFL both endorse.

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