An article today from an obvious soccer outsider really caught my attention. The opinion piece was regarding his thoughts on a 6-0 mercy rule within league play. I believe the author, Graham Messner, has violently missed the mark with his perceptions of competitiveness and how it should apply in a youth sports setting.
Now, at Soccer Classroom, we certainly wouldn’t call ourselves “fairness bunnies.” We believe in the spirit of competition – we just believe it needs to be channeled in the right direction. Using “Player Development” as our guiding principle, we don’t believe in teams railroading another team. And, 6-0 is generally considered the point at which you’re sticking the other teams nose in it. The game has obviously diminished in quality and is certainly unsporting at that stage. The negative effects including poor form and being turned off to the game far outweigh any other aspect.
On Being the Adults
Now, sometimes in speaking with parents, they believe a team should be allowed to run up the score. In fact, I had one parent call the 6-0 rule “Un-American.” The notion that some parents believe that the “U6 Tiger Sharks” should be able to beat up on the “U6 Killer Bees” due to their superiority is ludicrous. Ultimately, they’re totally ignoring the fact that teams (or playing division) – to begin with – were not formed properly and created this inequity. Let’s rest assured that it is not the amazing training habits formed in the short season that has provided this imbalance.
Sure, its important to learn dealing with a win and loss graciously, we agree. But, I’m always amazed when you ask how that same parent would feel if their son or daughter lost a match 8-0 and having to pickup their spirit and force them back onto the field next time. Suddenly, the answer changes just a little bit. The net end result isn’t positive: the winning team didn’t develop skills; the losing team was probably turned off to soccer. This is not good for player development.
Now, as a coach, you know straight away when you have a match that is going to be unequal. You can take steps along the way to even out the match to create a competitive environment – and the time isn’t with 5 minutes left and you winning 5-0. Game like this are the perfect opportunity to develop and test your weaker players and allow them to experience new positions while doing so under game conditions. While coaches should be exposing players to all aspects of the game anyway, I can appreciate inexperienced coaches feeling uneasy about this. Rest assured, once you do it you realize that pigs are going to fly in from the sky.
Walk the Walk?
Sure, it sounds good. But do you do it? Yes.
You want to know how nuts I am about staying true to Player Development? Coaching on the higher-level competitive side, I’ve always played teams even up when they turn up without enough players to fulfill a whole team. You can’t imagine the looks on other coaches faces when I tell them I’m playing them even…and why I’m doing it. The lessons of creating a sporting, competitive environment far outweigh a win. And, certainly, I know my players will develop at a far greater rate by being challenged – not by simply “outmanning” the other team into a blockbuster win. Neither team gets anything out of that situation. Now, we’ve always won the games anyway by keeping fresher legs in the game, but even if we didn’t it would be the “right” thing to do. I always like to think on the sidelines, “What are you teaching your kids?”
I’m able to do this because I clearly explain our goal of Player Development in our Pre-Season meeting. The goal is never to win; to goal is to develop. Winning and losing is simply and outcome of playing the game. I can do tons of things as a coach that are contrary to player development, but would help us to win more matches. By framing player development and sporting behavior and lesson for young players, we have a platform for understanding and success. And, because we do focus on overall player development, we win our fair share of games because all of our players get better throughout the season.
Now, certainly Graham does make an amusing case about what happens in a 5-0 scenario where the team scores on itself at the direction of the coach. Obviously, in the non-sporting gesture, I am certain that cooler, Administrative heads would prevail resulting in no penalty. But, yes, this would be an awkward situation. I will just mention that in 20+ years on soccer fields around the Nation, I’ve never heard of it before…take that for what it’s worth.
Soccer Coaching Topics
- As a parent, what do you think about the 6-0 rule? Fair? Unfair? Ridiculous? Needed?
- As a league, what can be done to avoid situations such as these?
- Does your club/league have a “mercy” rule in effect? What is the general consensus in your club about it?
- As a coach, how do you avoid “running up” the score?
TOO FAR Bizarre rule takes fun out of youth soccer
By GRAHAM MESSNER
For Public Opinion
So much is going on these days that defies common sense, it’s scary.
This week, it was revealed that the National D-Day Memorial Foundation actually thought it was a good idea to erect a statue of Josef Stalin in Bedford, Va.
Yes, that Stalin.
The fact that the person or persons who came up with the “idea” weren’t laughed out of the room and out of a job makes you wonder.
In Canada, lame brainitus apparently caused another bizarre decision to be made when an Ottawa youth soccer league imposed a rule that penalized any team winning by more than five goals.
The team winning by a six-goal differential must forfeit the game due to a lack of sportsmanship.
I can’t make this stuff up.
League director Sean Cale, who evidently has stage four lame brainitus, defended the new rule by saying it was intended to make the game fair.
This guy is a real Einstein.
In Cale’s world, everyone is created equal, excellence is frowned upon and thin-skinned losers are rewarded.
Two weeks ago, the Canadian national soccer team lost to Argentina 5-0 in Buenos Aires. If only Argentina had scored another goal, the Canadians, using Cale’s logic, would’ve celebrated a glorious upset win.
In 1993, Canada lost to Mexico 8-0. That’s a big victory in Cale’s book.
The funny thing about those who implement such short-sighted regulations is they have no alternate rules in place in case someone smarter than them purposely makes a mockery of the rule and its intent.
For instance, let’s say Team A holds a 5-0 lead late in the game, and a Team B defender hears the official say there are 10 seconds left. Wanting to win the game, he waits five seconds, and then drills the ball into his own net, effectively giving Team A a 6-0 lead, but ultimately an automatic loss for running the score up.
Another example: Perhaps Team A, upon scoring a fifth goal, either allows a Team B player to dribble down the field uncontested and score into an empty goal, or simply scores an own goal on purpose so they can resume playing the game in proper fashion.
The new rule follows the previous rule that stated any goal scored beyond a five-goal differential would not count. Apparently, that wasn’t enough.
Cale stated that the rule would likely be replaced by a preseason skill assessment that would help make fairer, more-balanced teams. Honestly, why not try that first?
He also said that the league encourages coaches to take measures, such as making players play with their weaker foot, taking players off the field or moving players out of their usual positions.
Trust me, if you move a youngster from defender to striker, all he wants to do is try to score a goal. While taking players off the field and putting in restrictions are solid options used for decades, simply saying six goals is the standard for a team running the score up is asinine.
But in this league, where players range from 4 to 18, a coach must tell the players to just pass the ball around and keep the ball as far away from the opponent’s goal as possible — the complete opposite of the object of the game (you’d want to keep it as far away from the opponent’s goal as possible to avoid an odd ricochet that could cost you the game).
Honestly, I would like to be there and watch a game end when the team leading 6-0 is given a loss.
Talk about body language.
On one hand, you’d either have the “winning” team jumping around showing the No. 1 sign — despite not scoring a goal — or a bunch of children who know what happened and are uncomfortable with it all.
On the other hand, the “losing” team just stands there. Their parents stand there. Their coaches stand there.
Citizen Cale then exuberantly declares the victor, helps form a victory tunnel and declares he’s starting a cross country program in which the fastest runners must wear handicapping ankle weights in an effort make the race fair for everyone.
He then unveils a statue of Josef Stalin and everyone sings and rejoices in the success of socially engineered parity and the virtues of the lowest common denominator.
Things have gone too far for too long.
Author: GRAHAM MESSNER