Soccer league ban reflects debate over winning and losing
Associated Press
Wednesday, June 03, 1998

BOSTON -- No keeping score. No awards ceremonies. No winners. Some might call it soccer without the kick.

The Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association calls it "nonresult-oriented competition" and now is requiring it for all tournaments involving players 10 and under. The group is considering extending the practice to 12-year-olds.

With no winners in the tournaments -- scores are OK in regular-season games -- the association figures there will be no losers, and none of the bad feelings that can come with defeat.

"We're trying to take away that 'You've-gotta-win-the-trophy' feeling," Cathy Cresta, the association's registrar, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "These children don't need that kind of pressure."

But some young players said soccer without victory is like peanut butter without jelly.

"It's dumb and stupid," 10-year-old Mike Ross of Plymouth said. "It's fun to win."

Not keeping score in sports for young children is nothing new. Sentiment against the Vince Lombardi-like drive to win has been reflected for years in early-stage sports like Mitey Mites football and tee-ball.

But few would have thought it likely that winnerless sports might be played by 12-year-olds, as the Massachusetts soccer association is considering.

Ronald Smith, secretary-treasurer of the North American Society for Sport in America, said proponents of scoreless games got their start during the social upheaval of the late Vietnam War era.

Dean Conway, director of coaches for the Massachusetts soccer association, said a good time should be a major goal of youth sports.

"We think anyone who plays in a nice, fair soccer game is a winner. If you come away and you're happy and you have an ice cream in your hand, what could be greater?" he said.

The association, which represents 14 leagues and 167,000 children across the state, instituted the policy in September. Massachusetts players can't travel out of the state unless the other team agrees to play a winnerless tournament, Conway said.

Jon C. Butler, executive director of the Pop Warner youth football league, said scores are not kept at the lower levels of flag and tackle football programs. But, he noted, children can soon learn to cope with losing.

"Kids are remarkably elastic that way," he said. "The only time they stay upset is when adults involved -- coaches or parents -- keep echoing what has gone on."

Mike Burns, captain of the New England Revolution soccer team, who was to head to France on Wednesday to join the U.S. World Cup team, said winning is eventually a reward worth playing for.

"At some age, it has to become result-oriented," said Burns, 27, who grew up playing youth soccer in Marlboro.

Paige Beauregard, 11, of Belchertown, said she and other youngsters will probably just keep the scores of their soccer games in their heads.

"I'd like to know the score so I can get better," she said.

Though adults continue to debate games without winners, Scott Campbell, 10, a fourth-grader at Swift River Elementary School in Belchertown, voiced his unequivocal support.

"I think that would be fun," he said. "I played for a team that only won one game. We lost all the other ones."

From the Wednesday, June 03, 1998 edition of the Augusta Chronicle


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