Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

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Ali's Choice
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Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Ali's Choice »

There has been some debate in Australia this week because a small Australian Rules Football local league in Victoria sought to cap the losing margin in junior fixtures. This got me thinking about Rugby, and whether any such rules exist in our game. I'm sure it happens somewhere. The author in the article below raises some good points. You can argue both for any against the capping of margins in junior games.


Why it is good for our children to fail


The other day my nine-year-old tripped over as she was walking up our carpeted stairs. I screamed, yelled "Oh my god, this is terrible!", ran to her and cradled her in my arms.

Except I didn't, of course. That would have made it much worse. I looked up from my computer, saw she was fine, said lightly, "Ooops! You'll be okay!" and got back to work. Every single parent in the world would understand my response. Underplaying a minor setback is the best way to help our kids move through it.

So why then do we overplay minor setbacks by trying desperately to prevent them?

Yesterday, it was revealed that a junior AFL league in Victoria has capped score margins for players, to prevent large losses. According to the Sunbury Leader, margins for games will be capped in all under-12 to under-16 grades in the Riddell District Football League, and goalkickers and best players will no longer be recorded.

The rules have been bent to encourage weaker players to continue playing AFL; presumably, kids who lost by large margins were becoming discouraged and quitting the game.

The organisers of Riddell District Football League have been accused of wrapping the young players in cotton wool, and the argument is fairly predictable. When kids are protected from failure, opponents claim, they are denied the opportunity to develop resilience. Real life is filled with disappointment and failure, and so kids need to learn coping strategies now.

The reverse of the cotton wool argument is predictable, too. Kids have plenty of time to learn resilience, the reasoning goes, so why not let them enjoy childhood for a little bit longer?

Both arguments have merit, but both fail to recognise the most significant issue. By shielding our kids from painful situations, we are not just denying them the chance to learn resilience; we are actually making the painful situations much worse.

Consider the example of my daughter falling over. If I'd screamed and yelled she would have assumed she was in danger, and reacted with fear and pain. But as I stayed calm, and demonstrated that it was no big deal, she took it in her stride. She stood up, brushed herself off, and continued up the stairs.

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The same is true of other painful situations. Sure, it's disappointing to be beaten in a footy game by 100 points. And if we, the adults, yell and cry and carry on, the kids will no doubt feel crushed. But if we shrug our shoulders, say, "Oh well, that's a shame, but it's no big deal," then that's what our kids will believe.

If, on the other hand, we bend the rules to avoid the situation altogether, we are teaching our kids that losing by a large margin is too shocking a situation to experience. We are effectively yelling "Oh my god, this is terrible!" We are conveying our belief that failure is appalling, and must be avoided at all costs.

And so how will our kids think about failure going forwards? They will regard it with fear and pain.

It's nonsense, of course. Failure isn't appalling. Failure is a perfectly normal part of life. And this is the message we should convey to our kids. We need to show them that failure simply isn't a big deal, not even when it's by a large margin. We need to let our kids fail, then say 'Oops! You're okay!' and get back to what we were doing.

We cannot protect our kids from failure, certainly not in the long term. What we can do, however, is to normalise failure so that it is not so scary and painful. Everyone falls over. Everyone loses. Everyone experiences disappointment.

The difference is only how we cope with it. Do we say "Oops, we're okay!" or do we fall apart?

It's not the margins that matter. It's our attitude to the margins. I hope the Riddell District Football League figure that out.


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Santa
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Santa »

It should be capped at a level where they are able to learn to deal with defeat productively in terms of their emotions and their behavioural response, but lower than a level at which they are psychologically scarred.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Brumby_in_Vic »

A lot of under age Rugby scores here aren't recorded accurately the losses are higher than what's put up on the websites.

Aussie Rules is a lot more alarming due to the scoring system and match duration. At school there were teams winning by 150 plus points and conceding less than three goals. Playing in the back line you barely go near the ball in defence. A few lads switched to Rugby after this as they weren't being challenged and they could go on tours
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Ali's Choice
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

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Santa wrote:It should be capped at a level where they are able to learn to deal with defeat productively in terms of their emotions and their behavioural response, but lower than a level at which they are psychologically scarred.
The preferable option is to have divisions, where teams are grouped with teams of similar ability. However depending on the size of the local league, this isn't always an option. Also, grading teams and players creates a whole host of negative, unintended consequences.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Sinkers »

Most of our junior leagues have a "mercy" rule where at say 50 or 80 points down the losing team can elect to end the game.
Usually it would be a joint decision by coach and captain/players.
Funnily enough they invariably elect to play on.
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Ali's Choice
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

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Brumby_in_Vic wrote:A lot of under age Rugby scores here aren't recorded accurately the losses are higher than what's put up on the websites.

Aussie Rules is a lot more alarming due to the scoring system and match duration. At school there were teams winning by 150 plus points and conceding less than three goals. Playing in the back line you barely go near the ball in defence. A few lads switched to Rugby after this as they weren't being challenged and they could go on tours
Yes Aussie Rules is a game that can be conducive to big scores.

And as you say, and what the author quoted article in the OP doesn't get, is that margins aren't kept to keep kids happy. They all know when they get thrashed. Margins are capped to try and keep families and kids in the game. All sports are shedding junior players and when kids get humiliated every week they are much more likely to leave for another sport or club.
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Ali's Choice
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

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Sinkers wrote:Most of our junior leagues have a "mercy" rule where at say 50 or 80 points down the losing team can elect to end the game.
Usually it would be a joint decision by coach and captain/players.
Funnily enough they invariably elect to play on.
That's a pretty lame rule TBF, because it forces the losing team to make the degrading decision to call off a fixture, and it also punishes both sets of players by decreasing their game time.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by shanky »

Ali's Choice wrote:
Sinkers wrote:Most of our junior leagues have a "mercy" rule where at say 50 or 80 points down the losing team can elect to end the game.
Usually it would be a joint decision by coach and captain/players.
Funnily enough they invariably elect to play on.
That's a pretty lame rule TBF, because it forces the losing team to make the degrading decision to call off a fixture, and it also punishes both sets of players by decreasing their game time.
As you know, they have a mercy rule in league

In union the leading team have to take players off when 40 and 50 points ahead
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Ali's Choice
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Ali's Choice »

shanky wrote:
Ali's Choice wrote:
Sinkers wrote:Most of our junior leagues have a "mercy" rule where at say 50 or 80 points down the losing team can elect to end the game.
Usually it would be a joint decision by coach and captain/players.
Funnily enough they invariably elect to play on.
That's a pretty lame rule TBF, because it forces the losing team to make the degrading decision to call off a fixture, and it also punishes both sets of players by decreasing their game time.
As you know, they have a mercy rule in league
They do? I've never heard of an official 'mercy rule' here in QLD.
In union the leading team have to take players off when 40 and 50 points ahead
Is that a set rule, or is it just done informally? Again my concern over this practise is that players lose game time. That's okay if you live in a big city near your footy park. But in regional areas, where people drive for hours just to play junior sports, you don't want to be reducing the time kids are on the field.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Sinkers »

Agreed.
It's obviously intended to reduce humilation. And it's generally handled with s quick discreet conversation.
But the boys never want to take the option anyway.
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shanky
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by shanky »

Ali's Choice wrote:
shanky wrote:
Ali's Choice wrote:
Sinkers wrote:Most of our junior leagues have a "mercy" rule where at say 50 or 80 points down the losing team can elect to end the game.
Usually it would be a joint decision by coach and captain/players.
Funnily enough they invariably elect to play on.
That's a pretty lame rule TBF, because it forces the losing team to make the degrading decision to call off a fixture, and it also punishes both sets of players by decreasing their game time.
As you know, they have a mercy rule in league
They do? I've never heard of an official 'mercy rule' here in QLD.
In union the leading team have to take players off when 40 and 50 points ahead
Is that a set rule, or is it just done informally? Again my concern over this practise is that players lose game time. That's okay if you live in a big city near your footy park. But in regional areas, where people drive for hours just to play junior sports, you don't want to be reducing the time kids are on the field.

NSWRL rules ends the game when 50 points ahead

The union rules are official. 1 player comes off at 40 points up and 2 players come off if 50 ahead. The game continues as normal though. I think its a good rule as it squares things up a bit without terminating the game
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Thomas »

My 9yo plays in the Brisbane Junior Rugby Union competition and last season his team beat a few teams by more than 120 points. Their biggest winning margin this year is 72. There has never, ever been talk of a mercy rule or swapping players in any game I've watched.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by shanky »

Thomas wrote:My 9yo plays in the Brisbane Junior Rugby Union competition and last season his team beat a few teams by more than 120 points. Their biggest winning margin this year is 72. There has never, ever been talk of a mercy rule in any game I've watched.
That's because youse a feral bogans whereas round here, we is gentlemen
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Flametop »

At a young age, playing rather than winning/losing is more important.
Learning to play the game properly, handling the ball, drawing and passing, tackling, evasion skills are far more important than the short term goal of winning.

Players need to be allowed to make mistakes, take risks, experiment with what works and what doesn't without fear of being barked at/rebuked or substituted.

The kids know who has won or lost in the day.
It's better not to have trophys until the kids have learned to enjoy playing and being part of a team first.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Thomas »

shanky wrote:
Thomas wrote:My 9yo plays in the Brisbane Junior Rugby Union competition and last season his team beat a few teams by more than 120 points. Their biggest winning margin this year is 72. There has never, ever been talk of a mercy rule in any game I've watched.
That's because youse a feral bogans whereas round here, we is gentlemen
Just checked the results of the comp so far. This is their first year of graded games and there aren't any major blowouts like last year.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

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Thomas wrote:My 9yo plays in the Brisbane Junior Rugby Union competition and last season his team beat a few teams by more than 120 points. Their biggest winning margin this year is 72. There has never, ever been talk of a mercy rule or swapping players in any game I've watched.
No I've never seen the mercy rule in action either. 120 point margins are insane and don't benefit either team. Is there any talk of creating divisions in that league, to group the teams by ability?
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

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Flametop wrote:At a young age, playing rather than winning/losing is more important.
Learning to play the game properly, handling the ball, drawing and passing, tackling, evasion skills are far more important than the short term goal of winning.

Players need to be allowed to make mistakes, take risks, experiment with what works and what doesn't without fear of being barked at/rebuked or substituted.

The kids know who has won or lost in the day.
It's better not to have trophys until the kids have learned to enjoy playing and being part of a team first.
Can you fit any more clichés into your post?
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Flametop »

Ali's Choice wrote:
Flametop wrote:At a young age, playing rather than winning/losing is more important.
Learning to play the game properly, handling the ball, drawing and passing, tackling, evasion skills are far more important than the short term goal of winning.

Players need to be allowed to make mistakes, take risks, experiment with what works and what doesn't without fear of being barked at/rebuked or substituted.

The kids know who has won or lost in the day.
It's better not to have trophys until the kids have learned to enjoy playing and being part of a team first.
Can you fit any more clichés into your post?
Clichés?
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Thomas »

Ali's Choice wrote:
Thomas wrote:My 9yo plays in the Brisbane Junior Rugby Union competition and last season his team beat a few teams by more than 120 points. Their biggest winning margin this year is 72. There has never, ever been talk of a mercy rule or swapping players in any game I've watched.
No I've never seen the mercy rule in action either. 120 point margins are insane and don't benefit either team. Is there any talk of creating divisions in that league, to group the teams by ability?
They grade teams in the U10 divisions and up.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

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Thomas wrote:
shanky wrote:
Thomas wrote:My 9yo plays in the Brisbane Junior Rugby Union competition and last season his team beat a few teams by more than 120 points. Their biggest winning margin this year is 72. There has never, ever been talk of a mercy rule in any game I've watched.
That's because youse a feral bogans whereas round here, we is gentlemen
Just checked the results of the comp so far. This is their first year of graded games and there aren't any major blowouts like last year.
It's quite possible it changes with grading at 10.

Also, get ready for the rep neoptism and associated BS :frown:
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Ali's Choice »

Thomas wrote:
Ali's Choice wrote:
Thomas wrote:My 9yo plays in the Brisbane Junior Rugby Union competition and last season his team beat a few teams by more than 120 points. Their biggest winning margin this year is 72. There has never, ever been talk of a mercy rule or swapping players in any game I've watched.
No I've never seen the mercy rule in action either. 120 point margins are insane and don't benefit either team. Is there any talk of creating divisions in that league, to group the teams by ability?
They grade teams in the U10 divisions and up.
Sounds like a good move. However as I posted previously grading isn't always an option and brings with it a host of unintended, sometimes negative consequences.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by les@mooloolaba »

Ali's Choice wrote:There has been some debate in Australia this week because a small Australian Rules Football local league in Victoria sought to cap the losing margin in junior fixtures. This got me thinking about Rugby, and whether any such rules exist in our game. I'm sure it happens somewhere. The author in the article below raises some good points. You can argue both for any against the capping of margins in junior games.


Why it is good for our children to fail
Real life is filled with disappointment and failure, and so kids need to learn coping strategies now. Exactly

The reverse of the cotton wool argument is predictable, too. Kids have plenty of time to learn resilience, the reasoning goes, so why not let them enjoy childhood for a little bit longer? They need to learn resilience from birth. They have to deal with all sorts of issues in school and in life. Are teachers going mark test papers not less than 50% because it might be too painful for the poor wee mites? :yawn:

Both arguments have merit, but both fail to recognise the most significant issue. By shielding our kids from painful situations, we are not just denying them the chance to learn resilience; we are actually making the painful situations much worse. Absofuckinglutely
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This world is going to raise a heap of adults that cant cope with disappointment if we carry on like this. Where will it all end?
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

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Les, it's a bit unfair for you, as a baby boomer, to be lecturing younger generations about how they need to toughen up. You guys had it easier than any generation and every subsequent generation is going to find life harder than the one previous.

120 point thrashings do nothing but drive kids to other sports, or away from sports altogether.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by shanky »

League is worse than union round here. At least union is graded

In league, they have a macho adherence to small districts which means that 40kg boys can be facing up to 120kg boys.

And they wonder why kids are going to wendyball.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

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shanky wrote:League is worse than union round here. At least union is graded

In league, they have a macho adherence to small districts which means that 40kg boys can be facing up to 120kg boys.

And they wonder why kids are going to wendyball.
Yeah that's the problem with thrashings, people eventually just leave the game. Especially in today's highly competitive sports environment. Families simply won't keep forking out regos for their child to get trashed by 120 points every week.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by shanky »

Yeah exactly. I don't think you learn resilience from being thrashed every week. You just lose interest.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Taurua »

How about parents teach their children how to deal with defeat and failure?
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

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shanky wrote:Yeah exactly. I don't think you learn resilience from being thrashed every week. You just lose interest.
:thumbup: Couldn't agree more. And parents, who ultimately decide what activities their children do, very quickly lose interest.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Ali's Choice »

Taurua wrote:How about parents teach their children how to deal with defeat and failure?
In my experience it's almost always the parents who need to learn how to deal with defeat and failure. They're the ones who start complaining when their kids are getting thrashed, not the kids themselves.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by shanky »

Ali's Choice wrote:
shanky wrote:Yeah exactly. I don't think you learn resilience from being thrashed every week. You just lose interest.
:thumbup: Couldn't agree more. And parents, who ultimately decide what activities their children do, very quickly lose interest.
It's quite scary to see the drop-off

Clubs that are running 3-4 teams at U10 are down to maybe 1 by U13, and often they have to form merger teams from U14


This is partly due to school footy, surfing, girls etc but equally it's due to the quality of the fun being reduced by mismatches
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by jezzer »

Ali's Choice wrote:
Taurua wrote:How about parents teach their children how to deal with defeat and failure?
In my experience it's almost always the parents who need to learn how to deal with defeat and failure. They're the ones who start complaining when their kids are getting thrashed, not the kids themselves.
Absolutely. My kid plays hockey on a team that got, well, "hockeyed" in their league this year. Hasn't diminished his appetite one bit nor his teammates'. Parents all feel bad for them but we prob don't need to. Pretty sure the results posted with the federation are watered down a bit (5-0 instead of 15-0 or whatever).

My young fella is from an "Epic Fail" generation where success is endlessly bragged about and failure is waved in the face of the defeated. A few hidings have done wonders for his humility. Obviously, if it's week in week out then maybe the team is in the wrong league and the better answer is to seek more suitable peer teams.

But there's nothing wrong with shipping a few hidings. Ironically, in the Greatest Country on Earth Bar None (tm), "running up the score" is considered terrible form in most sports and teams are almost universally asked to ease up when it starts to get embarrassing, which help winners to be more gracious as well as sparing the losers humiliation.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Flametop »

I seem to remember being told that the best respect for your opponent was to continue playing to the teams' best ability.

Wingers waiting on the line editing to pop a pass to a prop who hadn't scored yet was frowned apon as well as letting any of the fowards take any of the conversions.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by les@mooloolaba »

Ali's Choice wrote:Les, it's a bit unfair for you, as a baby boomer, to be lecturing younger generations about how they need to toughen up. You guys had it easier than any generation and every subsequent generation is going to find life harder than the one previous.

120 point thrashings do nothing but drive kids to other sports, or away from sports altogether.
They will surely find it harder coping if they don't learn to take disappointment and big losses in life. I didn't say anything about toughening up AC, just asking where it will all end. The world is becoming too PC.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by jezzer »

Ali's Choice wrote:
shanky wrote:Yeah exactly. I don't think you learn resilience from being thrashed every week. You just lose interest.
:thumbup: Couldn't agree more. And parents, who ultimately decide what activities their children do, very quickly lose interest.
Instead of picking up the ball and walking off with their kids, maybe they should try to get the coaching improved or, heaven forbid, get involved themselves. Not directed at you, AC, but this sort of a la carte parenting to find a sport where your kid can fulfil your unachieved desires drives me nuts.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by jdogscoop »

When I was in my final year of high school the Canterbury under 17s travelled down to Ashburton to play Mid Canterbury under 18s which would have seemed like a good idea at the time, to whoever oversaw the schedules.

Unfortunately for that person, it was a particularly weak Canterbury side, trapped as it is between the tournament under 16 and under 18 sides. And, remarkably, it was a rich vein of talent for the lads from Ashburton.

Five minutes from time, the Canterbury coach waddled onto the field to blow it all up with the score at 85-0 to Mid Canterbury. The ref allowed it, and blew time early. I wonder if heèd have done so if the roles were reversed. I doubt it.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Insane_Homer »

It's done here in the UK and it sucks arse. the players dont like it either.

I've reffed a few junior games over the years when I've been told to call the result after a certain score line, each time offering the losers a chance to play on, they choose to do so every time.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Smee »

Placing the teams in appropriate divisions according to their ability is how they try to pre emptively prevent blowouts in youth soccer here in California........

For example my daughters soccer team plays at u10 level and there are 9 divisions.......midway through the season the teams are re seeded and placed into new divisions based on their performance and invariably the second half of the season is super competitive with most games being decided by the odd goal between evenly matched teams.

Little league baseball does a draft so that theoretically every team should be as strong as the others although Im sure some coaches are better evaluators of talent than others, ditto for recreational basketball where no scores or standings are kept so there are no winners or losers per se....

Directly answering the question in the OP: I think that refs should shave gametime off of games in blow out situations, Also, the better teams coach should take out his stars and put in a weaker lineup to keep the score from getting out of hand.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Jeff the Bear »

Having the odd dicking is character forming in my opinion. During my formative years I was on the end of (and dished out) the odd ton+ scorline.

Having said that, if it's a regular occurrence, then that is a problem with the system (team in wrong lev3l etc.) in my opinion.
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by Demilich »

As captain I used to ask the referee to call full time before we hit three figures when doling out a thrashing (that was at senior level rather than kids though).

Think it's a reasonable cap (if you've hit 100 and there is still a lot of time left in the game, particularly at kids level where the length of the game is shorter, then it's clearly a procession not a game anyway).

When I was about 12 we had two teams in my grade at Waitemata. The first game of the season, the other Waitemata team beat Eden 175-0. They stopped attempting conversions after the first couple of tries to allow more time to run in more tries, which was poor form from the coach at that level. Basically it was just "receive kick-off, run in try in first phase". I don't think Eden even had possession of the ball at any point. Made the papers and Eden ended up getting coaching sessions from Grant Fox (and ring-in players, so by the time we came to play them a few weeks later we only won by 20 :x ).
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Re: Should losing margins in junior games be capped?

Post by CrazyIslander »

I don't think kids would leave the game because they got flogged regularly. I think encouragement by coaches and officials is all that you need. Put on some food to boost morale etc.
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