Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When recreation becomes competitive

An interesting conversation began between The Surfer and I this past Saturday as we sat in the stands cheering our son (The Ace) on during his recreational arena soccer game.  During this casual, hour long soccer game, we watched our son's team score goal after goal after goal finally producing a score of 13-2.

It happens, right?  It's sad to see the defeated faces of the losing team, and we have definitely been there in the past, but it happens throughout all sports and we move on.  But hold on, let me give you a little more insight and then you tell me if this kind of defeat really should, in fact, be happening.

As I mentioned above, The Ace plays on a rec arena soccer team for boys aged 10/11.  This non-competitive game is perfect for our boy because he isn't a soccer guy.  His sports of choice are football and baseball but because the kid is an athlete through and through, he needs to be moving and engaged in sport at all times.  With the lull between football and baseball seasons he has chosen to play in this non-competitive arena soccer league.  For shits and giggles, because he's cool like that. (If only I were so motivated.)

As luck would have it, he has been with the same coach and group for a couple of years in a row now.  Remember, this is a NON-competitive league, so I don't believe there is a drafting process or much concern about assessing the kids abilities to keep the talent even.  The point is for the boys to get out there and play some soccer.

Rumor has it that about 5 of the 10 kids on our team all play together in a competitive soccer league throughout the year.  These guys are clearly, CLEARLY very good at what they do.  You would be astonished watching these boys play together.  I mean, it gets to the point where we stop cheering for our own goals because it's almost embarrassing the way our five guys dance around the other team.  (The Ace NOT being one of them.  He is a baseball/football guy, remember?)

Our heavily stacked team led The Surfer and I to wonder why, during this past debacle of a game.  I mean, clearly the coach asked for certain boys on her team, probably suggesting she wanted to keep the boys together for extra practice while their competitive team takes a break.  Makes sense.  In theory.  If the game remained fun for all involved.

But it's not.  It's not for the team getting crushed.  It kind of is for the other boys on our team being carried by Beckham and Pele.  But is that a prideful kind of win?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I know my own son is happy about being on the winning team each year, but is his one goal this entire season enough to make him truly happy?  Maybe. (Actually probably because he knows soccer is more of a challenge to master.  He doesn't kick a ball in football or baseball, right?)

And really, is it still fun for these really good guys at this point?  Are they really growing their game by being able to trample over opposing teams week after week?  Or would it be more fun and challenging for them to be split up and placed on different teams?  This way at least they are forced to rise to the occasion to try to win against one another.  Or does this stifle them working as a team?  Do they lose some dynamic between them if they play against one another during this rec season?

Clearly, this is why I don't coach.  I have no damn clue.  I do know it's kinda cool cheering on a winning team, but I do also know it's also lost some of it's luster.  When you secretly hope the other team scores just to bring a little excitement?  Isn't always great.

What do you think?  Is it fair that our coach can snag her own guys?  It IS a casual league where the final outcome really doesn't matter, so maybe I'm over thinking this? Am I crazy again?  Wait, don't answer that last question.  Just the first two. 


  1. I think youth sports have a very hard time finding neutral ground. It's either too competitive or "everyone wins".

  2. I agree with KLZ. This happened even when I played soccer. The girls who played comp together (especially those who traveled) were still on the same rec teams. Granted the coach came with them and that coach was cuh-ray-z! He caused many of us to quit and choose something else that was actually fun.

  3. We have this same conversation season after season in baseball bleachers. We always wonder if it's really fair, and is this what we should be teaching our kids.
    Then we realize... it isn't fair. And neither is the real sports world. Maybe it's better they learn it now, before they trade in their college scholarships for big time paychecks with no guarantee. Sports are fickle and only the strong, truly talented, thick skinned, can cut it!
    Naturally, we still try to instill integrity, and good sportsmanship. And it's impressive to see the kids learn to handle the stresses, pressure, disappointments, and politics of being part of a team and league. It's probably pretty good practice for future, real life, work and social relationships! Maybe that's the real lesson- Learning to deal!
    And, when it's no longer fun- move on!

  4. Having 2 boys in both competitive and rec leagues I think I have seen it all and each year it gets more and more disappointing. Favorites are played even in competitive sports and the competitive kids play rec to stay conditioned and continue playing the sports they love. Even drafts are not fair with kids...coaches tell kids not to try hard at a try out so they are low on the draft and that coach can snag them...kinda sick if you ask me. It's almost impossible to teach "fairness" in youth sports. As Diane said it's great practice for real life (although I wasn't planning to teach my kids about the ruthlessness in a board room just yet). Most of the youth today are not going to make it to professional sports so all we can hope for is a positive experience for them and that they have fun and the learn the sport...the way the sport was intended to be played. We have had great and bad coaches, been in good and bad leagues and on losing and winning teams. I just keep telling them it's a life lesson and if they are not having fun then it's time to move on...

    1. Seems to me the competitive players are ruining rec for the rec kids. I don't think they should be allowed to play rec if they are competitive skill level. They take play time from the kids that only are able to play rec, and are the skilled players really getting any kind of challenge??? If they need to keep conditioned, play each other in scrimmages but don't ruin rec kids party!! It's just plain rude!

    2. As a coach for both competitive and rec, I see this issue every baseball season. In baseball it's up to the coaches to make sure the rec kids get a fair opportunity if there are comp kids on the same team. It's a real shame when coaches run up the score and the game ends in 4 or 5 innings with their comp kids. See it to often. Adults have to regulate it. God bless

  5. Rec leagues are supposed to be fun for ALL the kids and for many of these kids are an introduction to the sport. I coach travel soccer and use to help with the local rec league but have quit doing so for this exact reason. Rec coaches are volunteers and unfortunately the majority of them never played the sport they are coaching or are frustrated wannabe athletes living vicariously through their children. Don't get me wrong there are some good coaches in rec too just not the majority. I would also rethink allowing my child to play for a travel coach who would take their team in to a rec league to begin with but then run the score up on rec teams who are clearly less skilled says a lot about the coach. This is what we call a WAAC coach (win at all cost) who is more concerned about winning than player development. I will not run the score up on an opponent even in a travel tournament. Once we are up by 4 or 5 goals we put stipulations on the players like you can only shoot with your off foot, you have to string together 5 consecutive passes before you can shoot, etc. We do this out of respect for our opponent, respect for the game and to challenge our players so they are still sharp for the next opponent. We recommended to our rec league that at the end of the season each coach rate their players simply 1 thru 5 and next season when making teams you make sure each teams has equal number of 1 thru 5's on every team. Not perfect but makes it a little more even.