I turned on Two-and-a-Half-Men tonight, and the episode featured Jake playing soccer. Charlie sat down next to a mother at a game and said, “Where do you stand on this not keeping score thing?” The mother answered, “I think it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.”
In the next scene, Jake walks into their house with slumped shoulders while his dad said, “Nobody got creamed. Nobody won or lost.” Jake retorted, “Except us, 12-2.”
This is the problem with not keeping score: everyone keeps score, whether there is an official scoreboard or not. Everyone knows the winner and loser, especially in a 12-2 soccer game. Children are not dumb; you cannot hide the result from them or their parents.
Not keeping score misses the point. The scoreboard is not the problem; the problem is the way that the scoreboard makes us act. If the coach plays with a win-at-all costs, peak-by-Friday approach, the scoreboard makes no difference. However, if a coach takes a long term, process-oriented approach, the presence of a scoreboard does not change his coaching.
If we want to help children enjoy their initial sports’ experiences, ignore the scoreboard. Its presence or lack thereof will not determine a child’s enjoyment of the activity. As I wrote earlier this week, children view competition differently. They are not absorbed by the score until parents and coaches make such a big deal out of it that they have to hide the score. In many cases, this brings more attention to the scoreboard.
Rather than focus on the scoreboard, leagues should spend more time creating equal teams, as children do when picking teams on the playground. Next, if a league worries about blowouts, play each game like a mini-tournament: re-start the score each quarter.
Other ideas that would change the league’s culture more than worrying about the scoreboard would be to encourage coaches to work together; to run one practice per week as a group workout focused on skill development; to change teams more often; to alternate coaches based on strengths and weaknesses, so each teams learns from the strengths of each coach, not just one coach; to teach coaches about the Peak by Friday concept and its negative effect on youth player development; and more.
The scoreboard is a superficial change that changes very little. To make an impact, the changes need to go to the league’s foundation, focus on the league’s philosophy and change the coaches’ approach to their teams, winning, development and players’ motivations.
By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League