Soccer lineupIn an ironic twist, the UK’s national football association has just banned competitive leagues for U8 players, something US Soccer has been pushing for a while. Scores and standings cannot be kept or published. Over at Two Footed Tackle, they cheer the decision:

The benefits of scrapping competitive football for under-8s are plentiful, as are the arguments in favour.

Firstly, it means that 6- and 7-year-old children are not subjected to that most cancerous of footballing evils, the over-competitive abusive parent. It’s been the subject of a growing discourse in the world of youth football, and is clearly problematic. Young players don’t like it, and it will become a big strand of Respect as the campaign develops. This is one that should be tackled at all youth football age groups.

No abuse, no pressure and no result means no stress. That is surely a good thing, at least at such an early age. The kids will hopefully be free to develop technically without having to ‘win’.

While I agree that kids this age should be working on skills and not winning, I don’t think eliminating scores and standings is the way to do it.

I’ve said this many times – overly competitive parents and coaches are a problem everywhere and they will continue to be a problem with or without scores. Efforts like this are a start, but they try to take away a carrot that really isn’t reachable. Parents and coaches like these want to win and will still exhibit there bad habits with or without scores. The only way to address it is through concerted parent and coaching education programs at the grass roots level and weeding out problem coaches over time.

I think it’s great the FA has taken these steps, however I’m not sure the results will be as drastic as some hope. Fixing this problem requires hard work and the ability to deal with awkward situations – telling some parents to sit down and be quiet and teaching/retaining coaches that coach for the right reasons – to develop players. More leagues should be doing parent and coaching education programs, and then we may see some widespread results.

One anecdotal point – in our Rec league, by far, the most trouble we have in terms of ‘incidents’ is in the U8 division. I’m starting to think a parent seminar for all rising U8 parents should be a requirement!