Striving for Mediocrity

Those outside of the Ottawa area probably aren’t aware of the story  that has a lot of people here shaking their fists. It involves about the Gloucester Soccer Association.

The rules of this kids’ soccer league include a 5-point “mercy” regulation. This means that in any game, no team is allowed to be more than 5 points ahead of the other team. If some evil child, in the heat of demon competitiveness, goes ahead and scores a 6th goal his team automatically loses the game.

So now if one team is 5 points ahead, that team just kind of sits around the field playing poker and smoking cigars until the other team scores a few more goals.

It’s all about not damaging a child’s self-esteem by letting him be on a team that gets beaten by too many points, thereby making him feel like a loser. It’s much healthier to curtail the spirit and skill of good players because we don’t want them to get the impression that having talent in this country is going to get you anywhere.

I’m going to be brutal here and say that if your kid has no aptitude for soccer then he shouldn’t be on a league soccer team. If he’s no good  but likes soccer, he can play with friends or attend soccer camps or schools until he’s good enough to make a league team. If not, there are lots of other team sports to try and lots of other great ways to stay physically fit.

I don’t think we’re doing anyone any favours with this “equal opportunity” crap. Kids, generally are not that stupid. They know damn well when they suck at something. And, usually when they suck at something, they’re not all that interested in spending a lot of time doing it. They’d be better off spending their time doing something they enjoy and are good at, or at least have some hope of getting good at.

XUP Jr. tried dance for a year when she was younger because she thought it was a magical fairy-tale thing to do. But she inherited all my uncoordinated genes. So, while all the other little kids had no problems learning the simple steps and prancing gracefully across the stage, XUP Jr. was always stumbling along in the opposite direction of the rest of the gang. She was forever bumping into and knocking over scenery. She constantly lost control of her costumes and props. She flailed around like she was on fire. It wasn’t pretty.

I sat through all the recitals and tried to keep the video camera focused on her, though I never knew where she was going to veer off to next. And afterwards,  I’d say stuff like, “You looked very pretty with that tiara around your neck. Did you have fun?” And she’d say no, but she wanted to finish off the year. Then she suggested that maybe she could try piano lessons instead of dance next year.

I probably should have told her she was a spectacular dancer and not to give up. And then I should have complained to the dance school that they were making the dances too complicated and it was making my daughter feel bad. And then at the next recital, all the kids would have stood in a circle holding hands and swaying gently from side to side while Row, Row Row Your Boat played softly in the background.

But that’s not what happened. XUP Jr. turned her attention to learning to play piano and did it pretty well.  And FYI, her failure as a dancer has not resulted in psychotherapy and has not stopped her for one moment from enjoying her school dances.

Pretending kids are good at something and praising them to the skies when they know they’re not, I think will just confuse them and totally skew their judgment and sense of self.  Then you wind up with things like tone-deaf, deluded kids auditioning for American Idol and having their dreams shattered (finally) on national television by a snarky British guy.

And, it’s totally unfair to the kids who really are skilled. They may have natural talent and/or they may have worked hard to get good. Then they’re put on teams with kids who have little interest in being there and even less skill. The talented kids can’t play to their potential and have no way of developing their talent. Instead, they have to subdue their skills and pretend they’re just as useless as the unskilled kids.

And what does that teach them?

It’s better to be average. You don’t have as far to go to become part of the lowest common denominator to which we all seem to cater.