Should we do away with keeping score in youth sports?

By Janis Meredith | Posted 3/2/2015

I’ve heard the arguments about why we should do away with keeping score in youth sports. Supposedly, if we remove the focus on winning, players will stay engaged longer because their self-esteem won’t be threatened.

I actually don’t have a problem with no scoreboard for 3-to 6-year-olds. When kids are that little, it really should be all about fun. But an 8- or 9-year-old child is old enough to learn the value and the lessons of competition.

Yes, kids get disappointed. Yes, they get angry. Yes, they gloat. Yes, they handle winning and losing poorly. 

But that does not make competition the bad guy.

It is the job of parents and coaches to show and teach young athletes the value of competing. Competition is rich soil for character growth. 

  • It teaches kids how to play by the rules. The sooner your child learns this lesson, the more fun he'll have playing with others as he grows up. Following the rules is a lesson that will keep him out of trouble when he gets into high school or college, when he gets a job or when he gets married.
  • It teaches athletes to give their best effort, no matter what the outcome. A loser can feel good about his effort because he tried his hardest, and a winner may feel as if the victory was especially sweet because he really pushed himself at the end. Our kids need to learn that winning is fun and important, but doing your best in any circumstance is more important.
  • It teaches kids how to win and lose. Tennis pro Jim Courier says sportsmanship is when, “a guy walks off the court and you really can't tell whether he won or lost, when he carries himself with pride either way.” Winners shouldn’t gloat and trash talk their opponents, and losers shouldn’t pout and throw temper tantrums.
  • It teaches kids how to persist and fight toward a goal. Winning and losing a sports event is a visible goal. It gives kids something to reach for, something to fight for. It teaches them to persist and not give up just because they are down in the game. 

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.