Maybe It Does Matter Whether You Win or Lose

The politically correct crowd has achieved a milestone in its march to cleanse life of every cruel unfairness. This time it was discovered to be glaringly present in youth soccer.

The Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association has discovered that keeping score results in a tournament winner. That implies that all the other teams are - egad - losers. The soccer association has decided that there will no longer be winners in sanctioned tournaments for certain age groups. No longer will young athletes suffer the agony of defeat. Of course neither will they experience the thrill of victory, or even indulge in the dreams of achieving it.

No matter. After all those hours of practice leading up to the tournaments, the kids will still have the joy of, well, practicing some more in the tournaments. It'll be kind of like a scrimmage, except with another team - you know, the guys in the different-colored uniforms who, if they beat you, would make you "losers."

Boy, is this merciful or what? Just think: no more coaches screaming instructions. No more having to console a blundering teammate with a "that's OK, Billy." No more rehashing the key plays over breakfast with your parents. Whew, what a relief.

If awards are given out, the new rules specify that everyone on every team must be given identical awards. What'll the inscribed achievements be? Showed up? Participated? Ran around a lot? Perspired?

I wonder, though, about the scores of the tournament games. While posting scores is permitted, there are no positive or negative consequences for scoring more or fewer points. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that final "scores" will be astronomical compared with the days when scores were recorded and meant something. What's the point for the goalkeeper to dive to stop the ball from going in? Gosh, a guy could dirty his uniform, and for what?

And what about the practices and the conditioning? There's no goal, no different outcome, whether or not a player sacrifices and works extra hard. Why devise and study and practice new plays? There aren't any prizes for showing off. Besides, that would be unsportsmanlike.

When I was a kid, I played lots of sports. Lots of times my team lost. And sometimes I was a major or minor factor in the reason we lost. But once, in freshman intramural basketball, I was the high scorer and scored the last four points in the final minute to win the championship game by a score of 28 to 27. My teammates carried me off the court on their shoulders. That's what I remember clearest.

As a sales manager I've lost a lot of times - I've also won a lot. Winning is more fun. And it enabled me to put two sons through Cornell University. I wonder what my career would have been like if, when I was a kid, I never experienced losing ... or winning.

* James J. Morrissey is a consultant and sales trainer in Wayland, Mass.

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