Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Are soccer skills more important than life skills?! Ontario minor soccer thinks so!

Posted by Mitch Zeltzer

Growing up playing various sports taught me athletic skills, coordination, sports knowledge, the value of healthy lifestyle, commitment/loyalty, and the importance of practice.  Possibly more importantly though, it taught me about team spirit, good sportsmanship, what it takes to rise to the top and be the best, respecting the game, how to win graciously, and one of the more difficult lessons - how to accept losses.

It was recently announced that Ontario minor soccer is going to stop keeping score and standings for leagues of players 13 years old and younger.  In this article, people who were involved in the decision making or the implementation of this new philosophy seem to be missing the point.  They keep talking about soccer skill development as though that is the only reason parents are encouraging their children to participate in team sports like soccer.

Sure, I grew up dreaming of becoming the next Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, etc.  But we need to acknowlege the reality of the role sports should play in a child's life.  According to some sources less than 2% of high school athletes continue to play their respective sports in college, and the odds of going pro are event worse, with only 0.0008% of athletes making the big leagues (and the odds could be even worse depending on the sport you are going after!)

So knowing this, how could it make sense to sacrifice lessons of healthy competition and sportsmanship for more soccer skill development?  If every youth league followed suit, how are Ontario's youth going to learn how to deal with compitition appropriately?  How are they going to learn to become gracious winners and how to accept losses?  Competition is part of life, and like any other skills, in order to develop it, we must have the opportunity to practice it starting at a young age.

In my humble opinion, this is a step in the wrong direction.  What are your thoughts?


  1. I agree with many of your sentiments, especially the benefits of sport -- there are many to choose from. As a long-standing referee and parent, however, I am dismayed by the focus that parents and some coaches have on the winning/losing aspect of the game. I agree that we will lose the benefits of this aspect but we will gain many more. I also wonder if we will get more continued interest beyond highschool. (The drop off for soccer involvement plummits after the age of 16-18.) The winning and losing aspect has become the primary focus for youth soccer as well as our society. Perhaps the benefits of this new approach will extend beyond the touch lines. Steve

    1. Great comments Steve!

      I guess my take is that if unhealthy competition is the "problem", how is eliminating it entirely going to help kids get better at it?

      If coaches / parents are too focused on winning and losing , shouldn't the solution be more education & professional development for them to better understand the impact they are having and how to better educate and prepare our youth for the future?

  2. Right now, team sports are playing too much games and dont develop sport and life skill. You seem to think that learning to win/loose is very important, but by just playing games, you develop just that and you don't have time for anything else. You have a lot of time to learn win/lose later in your life. At the age of 13-, the focus needs to be on developing physical literacy.

    And about better education of the coaches and parents... Well, for that age group, in soccer and other team sport, the coaches are volunteers. Lots of parents still dont understand why they shoudl pay more to have an educated coach. There are courses for coaches (NCCP), but they cost lots of money and the volunteers dont always want to pay for them. The federations are also trying to do more, but a lots of the education goes though the NCCP and for other than that, you need money. The money comes from the gvt. And gvt gives money for high performance in first. The thing is if you want good high performance, you need good coaches at the base... Endless wheel.


Please keep your comments constructive, appropriate, and kid-friendly!

Thank you.