As scoreless games become more prevalent and players receive trophies for merely participating, it is increasingly difficult to teach children the important lessons associated with both winning graciously and losing with dignity. The Northern California Federation of Youth Football is dedicated to making those principles even more foreign to players in the league.
Recently announced rule changes for players in the 7 to 13 age range now include a fine of $200 for teams that win by at least 35 points and week-long suspensions for violations.
According to deputy commissioner Robert Rochin, the league decided to implement the directives because poorly performing teams have difficulty retaining players.
“If they are constantly getting beat, who wants to play anymore?” he asked, noting that players quit “all season long because of that.”
While kids should have the freedom to either stick with a struggling team in hopes of making it stronger or quit when the going gets tough, the entire league should not cater to those in the latter group.
In addition to the penalties included, the new rules also dictate that a team winning by at least 28 points at halftime must replace its starting players with second- and third-string backups.
Rochin contends that the rules will benefit players by “teaching them compassion for the other team” and “teaching them sportsmanship.”
Compassion is a vital trait for young minds to develop; however, it is also important to teach children to always perform at their highest ability. As for teaching sportsmanship, a team could win by 100 points and still embody civility while a team ahead by a field goal might engage in endless showboating. The attitude of players, not the size of a win, determines sportsmanship.
The league’s decision has drawn pointed criticism by parents and those embedded in the sporting world.
Dave Briggs of NBC Sports called it a “ridiculous rule,” noting that the real lesson it teaches is “that there’s always someone there to cushion the blow.”
Kelly McHugh, whose son has seen his playing time slashed under the new rules, says players are “afraid their coaches are going to get suspended.” Others say the change can prohibit potentially great players from early development and could result in increased danger.
Brent Moore said his son and others on the team who are “in the position of trying to protect their coach are backing off and are at a higher risk of being injured.”
At the root, proponents of such rules hope to spare children the sometimes harsh reality that everyone cannot always be a winner. Unfortunately, such protective sheltering only puts the next generation at a marked disadvantage upon entering adulthood. Likewise, those who excel — whether on the gridiron or in any other capacity — should be rewarded for their achievements instead of punished.
Photo credit: photologue_np (Creative Commons)