Political Scientist Barry Rubin has a problem:
It‘s something of a stretch to compare a soccer game among eleven-year-old boys with the fate of the democratic world, but I’ve always managed to see big issues in small things.
My son is playing on a local soccer team which has lost every one of its games, often by humiliating scores. The coach is a nice guy, but seems an archetype of contemporary thinking: he tells the kids not to care about whether they win, puts players at any positions they want, and doesn’t listen to their suggestions.
He never criticizes a player or suggests how a player could do better. My son, bless him, once remarked to me: “How are you going to play better if nobody tells you what you’re doing wrong?” The coach just tells them how well they are playing. Even after an 8-0 defeat, he told them they’d played a great game.
You can tell me this is finest French cow-pie, but it still tastes like shit.
[A]m I right in thinking that sports should prepare children for life, competition, the desire to win, and an understanding that not every individual has the same level of skills? A central element in that world is rewarding those who do better, which also offers an incentive for them and others to strive, rather than thinking they merely need choose between becoming a government bureaucrat or dependent.
The playing field was perfectly even, but the boys were clearly miserable. They felt like losers, their behavior rejecting the claim that everything was just great, or that mediocrity was satisfactory as long as everyone was treated identically. They knew better than to think outcomes don’t matter. In a truly sad gesture, one boy had suggested before still another losing game that they form a circle, put their hands in, and cheer themselves: “Like the good teams do.” Halfway into the season, the kids had even chosen a nickname for the team that expressed their sense of being weak losers.
So this isn’t exactly Harrison Bergeron in chains, but would you let, or worse, encourage, your child in this kind of league? I’d have my kid out of there so fast Usain Bolt would say “Did you see that?”
With the team ahead, they were thrilled. One shouted from the sidelines something I thought showed real character: “Don’t let the good players do all the work!” Instinctively, he recognized that some players are better, but he wanted to bring everyone’s level up rather than down. I’m tempted to say he was going against what he was being taught in school.
They played harder, with a bit more pressure and a less equal share of personal glory than they’d ever done before. But after the victory, they were glowing and appreciative, amazed that they had actually won a game. Yes, winning and being allowed to give their best effort as a team was far more exciting and rewarding for them than being told they had done wonderfully by just showing up, that everyone should be treated equal as if there were no difference in talents, and that the results didn’t matter.
Even Herm Edwards knows this kind of league is ridiculous. Preach it, coach!