Do Kids Learn More When We Stop Keeping Score?

zidane playing soccerLynden Dorval is a physics teacher who was fired for giving his kids zeros on assignments they didn’t complete. If the students didn’t do the work, he gave them a zero. Makes sense, right? Well, not according to the school board which has a policy against giving students zeros.

The “No Zero” policy is rooted in something called “formative assessment.”

“It’s a philosophy in which grades are not a reward for work done, but a reflection of how well the student understands that work.

Advocates of this system say marks shouldn’t be used as punitive measures, that students should not be pitted against one another, that every student can be successful. But many parents are concerned it won’t translate to the real world, where students will go on to face bosses, not coaches, and work can’t be sluffed off without real consequences.” [National Post]

When Dorval tried to show there were consequences for not participating, he was fired for insubordination. He now works at an “old-fashioned” private school as opposed to in the public system.


The soccer association in my community has announced that scoreboards won’t exist in the upcoming seasons. In an effort to emphasize skill development, they are diminishing the importance of keeping score. Soccer games will now be places where kids will be free to learn without competition, and skill development will be emphasized. There will no longer be long weekend tournaments for the sport; they will instead be branded festivals.

My immediate reaction to this development was similar to what the parents were saying about the No Zero policy.  There is competition in the real world, and kids need to learn how to deal with winning and losing. You and I grew up playing sports that kept score and we turned out fine, right?

The difference between then and now is not the kids and the scoreboard; it’s the parents and expectations.

The difference between then and now is not the kids and the scoreboard; it’s the parents and expectations. We played sport for fun, and exercise. Our generation of parents see sport as a career path. 8 year olds are pushed to elite programs to give them an advantage. Kids are redshirted in hopes they’ll be the biggest kid by the time they try out for Varsity football. Parenting has changed, so the leagues are taking down the scoreboard to get the game back to its roots.

Former national team member, Jason de Vos, says long term player development (LTPD) “isn’t about removing competition, nor is it about providing young athletes with a sense of false achievement. It is about creating an environment where every child can learn the skills they need to achieve success in the game, and then allowing them to apply these skills in competitive formats that are age-appropriate.”

If you’re still outraged at this “non-competitive” trend, your anger plays very nicely into deVos’ argument for removing the scoreboard.

“The reason that scores and standings are being removed for players under the age of 12 is not because the children are causing themselves irreparable harm by tracking their results. It is because adults are using scores and standings as the only measurement of success. They have taken an adult competition format, involving promotion and relegation, and imposed it on children. In doing so, the adults have compromised what is supposed to be a child-centred learning environment and replaced it with an adult-centric pressure cooker.”

So it’s That Dad‘s fault. The reason competition is removed is because of the parent so obsessed their kid is going to make the big leagues that they demand extra play time, ball hogging, and they scream on the sidelines abusing teen aged refs.


I used to be maniacal about my golf score. I kept every single golf card for 6 years and was obsessive about calculating my handicap. Every round of golf was Sunday at The Masters — I was serious. If I was having a terrible round, my day would be ruined. More than a few times I walked off the course in disgust, just like Rory McIlroy. That’s no way to “play”.

Now, since a few kids, it has been years since I’ve played more than 3 rounds in a year and I don’t keep score. I play golf for the joy of playing golf. I know my score is going to be terrible. I’m there to get a birdie or a par or two, and the rest of the time is a walk in the woods with my friends.

Am I less of a competitor in my business life because I play golf “for fun?” Not in the least.

I’m not a fan of the soft approach in school, where kids can coast without handing in assignments. And while I’m no fan of everyone getting a participation ribbon and there never being any “winners”, I can be pursuaded to take down the scoreboard in minor sports to save the kids from their parents.

What do you think? Does your kid’s league keep score? Would you be in favor of focusing on fun?

Article Posted 4 years Ago

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