Soccer: helping prepare our youth for the “Real World”…or so it should

by Ivan Bobanovic | Last updated

Creating a blog that promotes the improvement of soccer in North America is not easy.   The reason it is so difficult is because the focus for most athletes and fans lies in the realm of such sports as hockey and football.  These are factors that, as a person attempting to increase the knowledge of soccer, I am prepared to deal with and work with.  Put simply, other sports are more popular in North America (that is slowly changing however as soccer continuously becomes more and more powerful).

What I was not expecting to deal with was an article that I read in the National Post this morning who’s title read: win a soccer game by 5 points and lose, Ottawa league says

Excuse my while I go bash my head against the wall… A 12-person board of directors (all volunteers) of the Ottawa soccer league has developed a rule that says any team that wins by more than 5 points automatically loses by default.  As the author of the article – Terrine Friday – explains:

  • The Gloucester Dragons Recreational Soccer league’s newly implemented edict is intended to dissuade a runaway game in favour of sportsmanship.
  • The rule replaces its five-point mercy regulation, whereby any points scored beyond a five-point differential would not be registered.

The soccer league encompasses approximately 3,000 athletes ranging from the ages of 4 to 18.  The club director, Sean Cale, explains the rationale behind the rule:

  • “The board is completely volunteer-run and we do the best that we can to provide a good, clean, fun soccer experience for everyone.”
  • “The board is not trying to take the fun out of the game, they are simply trying to make it fair.”

Trying to make it fair? Give your head a shake – what a joke.  Let’s step away from the disservice this is doing to soccer and look at the bigger picture: life.  What is this teaching our kids?  Whether we are ready to admit it or not, life is not fair.  People are better at certain things than others – why is this a bad thing?  Why should someone – or in this case a team – be punished for being better? When our children step out into the “real world” they will be in for a surprise if they think that it is an equal and fair playing field.  They will be crushed and and left for the wolves.  You have to fight like heck to get any legitimate and real results in life, so why not teach them that on the soccer field?  When a team is bad, why not provide measures (i.e. better coaches) that will force them to learn how to get better and become stronger.  Why not teach them how to set goals and go after them.  Why are we settling to mediocrity?

I am going to suggest that settling for mediocrity in any other area of life would be considered foolish and stupid…why is it ok in soccer? How does this spoil soccer in itself?  Where do I begin?  When you are having the good players and good teams come down to the level of bad players and bad teams, you are promoting inefficiency, ineffectiveness and you are losing the potential to increase the quality of the sport.  If we do not continuously force our soccer players to become better, but rather force them to settle, we are polluting the sport.

The greatest lessons are learned when we fall down, when we deal with adversity or when we completely fail.  It is in these moments that character is built and powerful humans are created.  In the same frame of mind, when players and teams are not good enough,they must understand why they are not good enough and then work on getting better in order to push the envelope. Sports are intended to be fun, absolutely, but there are far greater aspects of the game at risk here.  I urge you to not let your children and your players fall into the trap of settling for mediocrity in soccer.  This will translate into the acceptance of mediocrity in their every day lives.  Encourage your children, players and teams to become better.  Not only will they be helping themselves, but they will be helping the sport as a whole and making it better for generations to come.  If we can have each generation get better, we are creating a cycle of success for the sport and for life as a whole.  In the end, soccer will become more fun and more appealing.

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