Attn: Soccer clubs/leagues — Simple alternative to participation trophy

I found this on Twitter recently and really like the idea. This is something ALL soccer clubs can start copying NOW!

In 2014, I wrote some thoughts about participation trophies. I still agree with that.

I would add a few things, now.

Participation trophies were meant to build self-esteem and keep kids playing sports whether they won or lost.

The intentions are good.

But, the best way to build self-esteem is to encourage players to build competency and mastery in the skills needed to play.

The best way to keep kids playing, whether they win or lose, is to teach them how to deal with wins and losses, while maintaining a competitive spirit, and use the feedback to improve.

Participation trophies have the unintended consequences of rewarding bare minimum effort and ignore the feedback provided by winning and losing.

When the time comes that winning and losing matters, they will be far behind and won’t know how to to deal well with winning or losing.

Here are a few more thoughts on what to do when giving out the Size 2 balls:

Give the balls out on the first day, not the last.

Set expectations with parents.

  • Tell parents how much time and effort it takes for the kids to gain skills. Consistency over the whole year is important. Be thinking in terms of months and years, not days.
  • Convince them to let their children play with the ball in the house.
  • Show them what their children can work on that’s fun, builds good skills and won’t break things — basic dribbling movements like Tom Byer suggests, 1v1 take-away, etc.
  • Sell them more balls. The more the better. Tennis balls are good, too.

A girl, her ball and a wall

From Be Like Ronaldinho by Lieke Martens (current Best FIFA Women’s Player):

My first memory in life is of my mum taking me to see my older brothers play. I couldn’t wait to run out onto the pitch myself, but I had to wait until I was 4 years old. So I’d take a small ball with me to play on my own. That’s how people in the village came to recognize me: the little girl who was always running around kicking the ball.

And when I say always, I mean always. When we got home from school at three o’clock, and my friends would go play with their Barbies, I’d play football with my brothers and their friends. They were all older than me, but they always let me join in. We just practiced and had fun. Even when I had nobody to play with, I still had my beloved ball — and a special companion.

A wall.

Good advice. HT: Tom Byer.

Culture vs. Everything else

The following is a personal experience that exemplifies the illustration in the previous post.

My son’s soccer team is the typical American suburban, pay-to-play team, where high percentage of what the players have learned about the game has come through organized play rather than culture.

This winter, a kid from an immigrant family joined the team. Several of his friends, also from immigrant families from various places around the world, were interested, as well, and joined in some practices and futsal games.

Most had not played organized soccer, yet their ball skills and game IQ were superior to the rest of the team and were likely good enough to make elite level teams.

While many of our players like to tell us why they don’t need to learn to juggle the ball, the visitor’s younger siblings were on the sidelines juggling the ball.

Kicking and Screaming

“Get the ball to the Italians!”

The writers of the 2005 soccer movie Kicking and Screaming, starring Will Farrell and Mike Ditka, understood what Tom Byer says in his book Soccer Starts at Home.

To improve the last place team, the coaches (Farrell and Ditka) recruit the nephews of the guy who owns the Italian deli.

When they walk into the deli, their kids are in the back room juggling the ball, which is a perfect example of Soccer Starts at Home.

The Italian kids carry the team to the championship game. The team’s strategy was, “Get the ball to the Italians.”

In my early days of learning soccer as adult, I was on a last place adult league team.

One season two French guys joined our team and carried us to within a goal of being champions.

Much like the movie, our strategy was, “Get the ball to the French guys!”

After one of the games, we were chatting. We asked, “How’d you get so good?”

Their answer, “We’re not. We’re average in France. That’s how bad you guys are — even the ones you think are good here! But, we grew up playing football with our pals all the time. We’d make you look like NBA All-Stars if we played basketball with you, because we didn’t play that.”

Clickbait journalism

Recently I heard a radio call-in host debate a caller about media motivation.

The caller thought the media it was ideology.

The radio host, who has been in the business for a long-time and has experience with NBC, assured him that’s not it.

It’s profit. The stories they carry, the angles they take — for ratings, for profit.

That’s good to keep in mind.

Do your homework, part 2

Two quotes from recent EconTalk podcast episodes that remind me of this post of mine (Do your homework) about how the Rock the Vote culture has encouraged people to think less and act more.

Bill James episode:

Bill James (Mr. Moneyball) speaking:

Self-righteousness is the great problem that afflicts our political culture. And, the problem is that large numbers of people on both ends of the political spectrum are so convinced that they are correct and that failings to see their correctness are moral failings, that we have lost much of our ability to communicate from one end of the spectrum to the other.

And, there’s no justification for it on either end. None of us understand the world. The world is vastly more complicated than the human mind. No one understands whether these policies are going to have the intended effects, or whether the unintended effects are going to be greater than the intended effects. No one knows the answers to those questions.

And the people who are convinced that they know the answers to those questions are just wrong. And it’s become a huge concern, because people are so angry, based on their self-righteousness, that we are: anger repeatedly expressed–anger building on anger, building on anger eventually leads to violence.

And we need to get people to back away from the conviction that they are right and see that they may be wrong not about something but about everything.

Jordan Peterson episode:

Jordan Peterson:

You know, these–we take 18-year-old kids, we put them in Ivy League universities, and we tell them to criticize the system and to act as political activists. And I look at that and I think, ‘God, you kids, you don’t know anything. You’ve never had a job. You’ve never taken care of anyone, including yourself. You can’t organize your own household. You’ve never read anything. You don’t know how to write. You don’t know how to think. But, it’s okay: Your professors can tell you that, now you are in a position to criticize the foundations of Western civilization. It’s like–it’s horrifying.