One of the Play Better slogans is to, Change the Rewards System. Well let me tell you, after recently attending a youth soccer awards ceremony, it’s worth discussing the very real possibility of changing the Awards system.
Why are we giving out awards to the best players at a U-10 level? Seriously, why? Why are we giving out so many awards in general?
It’s as if we have created a dichotomy between youth soccer in general. Please let me explain, the Canadian Soccer Association finalized the LTPD (Long Term Player Development) a few years back. Within this mandate no standings are allowed in youth level soccer across our Canada – fair enough, makes sense to me – but, then we go and start handing out individual awards within clubs and teams. Something just doesn’t seem right here.
On the one hand we are saying, “Hey we don’t care about the results, in fact we are not even going to count.” On the other hand, a group of individuals has no problem getting together and deciding who the best player is on a team made up of ten year olds.
How do you decide who the best player is at this age? To be honest, when kids are at this age it is usually the best or biggest athlete. They can simply run faster, jump high and kick further. Thus, scoring more goals. The problem is, and we’ve said this time and time again, scoring goals doesn’t develop players.
Another important factor, within this crazy award crazed system, is the very real fact that only one kid will receive the award for best player. During this age a youths mind is just beginning to develop and this can be devastating. The kids that don’t receive the player of the year award are left feeling forgotten and eventually the FUN factor in soccer will fade. All of a sudden you’re not good enough. My educated guess suggests that segregating youth teams in an award fact pattern is just one of a plethora of factors contributing to youth dropout rates across our Country. The Youth Sports Institute at Michigan State University, which conducted what, is widely cited as the most comprehensive study on the subject. This study – not surprisingly – found that children get involved in sports to have fun, play with their friends, and learn new skills. They drop out when it stops being fun, when there is too much emphasis on winning or being the best, and when there is too much pressure from coaches and parents. If something is no longer FUN a child quitting is the end-in-itself.
We want to keep our children in sport for as long as possible. Through sport a child learns endless values: teamwork, social skills, empathy, trust, cooperation……I could go on and on.
So where do we go from here?
I would personally like to see a stop to awarding the youth in soccer. I can understand giving an award out to the fastest 400 meter runner. That’s pretty straight forward. But, giving awards out to children in youth soccer is so subjective and in the end counter-productive. This is a time when a child’s soccer skills are, or should be, developing. What is the supposed value in rewarding a 10 year old with some senseless individual award when soccer is a team sport, a late specialization team sport? The Added pressures to individually be the best won’t produce soccer players in the long term. We need to re-evaluate this barrage of awards being handed out at our youth levels. In my view we need to change the award system…..
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