Sunday, April 6, 2014

Winners and Losers

There's been a lot of talk this week about winners, losers, resiliance and the possibility that we are inadvertently raising a generation of wimpy dimples.

The Australian Football League has changed it's Auskick rules so that all Under 10 games will be score-free.  No scores, no ladders, no grand finals, no best and fairest.  Nada.

And it seems the internet has collectively and unanimously deemed this move absurdist and counter-productive.

There are a lot of people whose opinions I respect arguing against this decision.

So am I alone here?

I just don't think it's such a bad idea.

For a start, in what has become typical of internet and commercial station journalism this change has been widely reported as a "ban on scoring", which is just inaccurate.

Because the U8's and U9's are already playing under these rules

So it's not a "ban on scoring", it's simply an extension of the existing rules to included an extra age bracket.

And another thing.  It's not been done because kids can't handle or shouldn't be exposed to the reality of loss.

If it was, I would have been the first one on the bandwagon to condemn the move.  I'm all for resilience.  I don't subscribe to this everyone's a winner mentality.  And no.  You don't get a ribbon just for running the race.  There's nothing wrong in my book with winners and losers.  How else do we teach our kids to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.

But make no mistake these rules are not about the kids.

These rules are not in place to protect our kidlets from themselves, or each other.  

These rules are there because adults, especially adults around kids sport cannot always be trusted to behave like adults.

These rules are such because if there are winners and losers and ladders and grand finals then the adults running the show are going to want to win.

Which means if they have a kid on their team who is a natural goal kicker, then that kid is going to be planted in the goal square to kick goals and win games.  And the kid that's not a natural at anything, well they'll be planted on the bench.  Because, winning - isn't that the point?

Which?  No.  Not when you are 5 or 7 or 9 or, now 10.  Because if you are playing Under 10's Auskick the whole idea is to learn the game, to acquire the skills, to form the foundations that may stand you in stead if you decide to pursue the sport into your teen years and beyond.

This means everyone needs an opportunity in a range of positions, not only to determine if they are any good in those roles, but to understand what impact those positions have on the whole game.  To learn the rules and hone their skills.

And that kid with the natural kick for goal?  Well don't underestimate the value of pushing them out of their comfort zone by having them play ruck or wing.

There are still plenty of opportunities within the no score structure to teach good sportsmanship and teamwork and reslilience.

Look, I've almost surprised myself by not being outraged by this move.  This idea that our kids need to be protected from the rough, tumble and losses of life is confounding.

But try as I might I just cannot bring myself to not like this.  Perhaps this means I'm just a totally soft touch.

More likely I just think it makes good sense.  Even if I'm the only one who does.

Are decisions like these damaging our children's resilience?