Why keeping score is important

Count me in as one of the characters outraged over the news that the bloody AFL has decided to ban scoring and tackling from U-10’s matches. Bloody absurd! Footy without scoring has no point; it’s no more than kick to kick.

Who thinks up these bloody stupid ideas? I’m sick to death of all these namby-pamby, do-gooder, paternalistic initiatives which actually do far more harm than good.

Seems like pretty well everything these days has been softened up. We’ve been given the lite version on the misguided notion that kids need it. They reckon that losing scars the kids, that it shouldn’t be about the score on the board, but fun.

I played footy as a junior. I wanted to win, as did my teammates. I doubt I would have played if there was no score. Competition was at least half the fun, even in under 11’s, and if you’re not keeping score how do you measure your progress?

The team I played in lost more often than it won, and though that was disappointing at the time it never made me downcast. More importantly it made the wins, when they came, more pleasurable. Keeping score gave meaning to what we did.

I don’t understand this fad to keep our kids in cotton wool. For centuries we’ve sent our kids out into the rough and tumble, with no adverse affects. On the contrary. There are life lessons in sport and play. In many ways our childish activities are preparation for adulthood – an adulthood where we don’t get extended the same favours as our kids today. Somewhere along the line some bright spark with a PhD decided that what we always believed to be good healthy fun was actually damaging to children’s psyche. What rubbish!

I actually think this is a serious issue – not just the AFL, but this whole trend. Children need to know boundaries. They need to learn cause and effect. Instead our society is removing boundaries, and kids don’t learn effects because they’re not exposed to causes any more.

I hate to break it to the world but life is a serious business. It’s nice, in a way, to be cocooned from it as a child, but that should only go so far. At some point our children need to enter into that world and stand on their own two feet. It may be a dirty concept, but excepting the utopia these boffins live in, the rest of us live in a world where we need to compete.

It’s wonderful to have a happy childhood. All of us wish it for our children. We need to wish for more than that though. Childhood is where the adult to be is developed. If we are to be healthy and well-adjusted adults we need to develop resilience as a child – not possible if we are kept in cotton wool. We need to learn the rules of life, exercise our judgement and form opinions and perspective.

What’s overlooked in all of this is that I think kids take comfort in the boundaries we’re now removing. Partly that’s hierarchy. Partly it’s all the common-place constraints and impositions that most of my generation grew up with. That may be the score on the board, but it’s also the rules we grew up with – what time we had to be home by, the courtesies drilled into us, the chores we had to complete, the time we had to go to bed, cleaning our room, the rule that no dessert unless we finish our meal, and so on.

Sensible boundaries impose a structure within which kids mature. They may grizzle at all the rules – that’s a part of growing up to – but there is no confusion. They know what they can and what they can’t do, they know why, and they know their place in the structure. There’s reassurance in that I think, and evidence too that they are loved, for if we didn’t care as parents we would let them do what they please.



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