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Should kids sport rules be modified? Athletes and academics are divided

Peter Rolfe, December 10, 2017 7:30PM Herald Sun

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Banjo and Tessa, wearing Ben Simmons NBA basketball gear. Melbourne born basketball star Ben Simmons is sparking a surge in the popularity of the sport. Picture: Tim Carrafa media_cameraBanjo and Tessa, wearing Ben Simmons NBA basketball gear. Melbourne born basketball star Ben Simmons is sparking a surge in the popularity of the sport. Picture: Tim Carrafa

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Should children involved in sport play to a different, modified set of rules or play the same way adults and teens do? Sporting greats and academics are divided.

Mollycoddling* kids with different rules such as scoring bans and mercy rules has been praised by some university experts, calling for more emphasis on friendship than competition.

But while emphasising that sport is meant to be fun, former sports stars say children need to learn the difference between winning and losing.

Victoria University Associate Professor Rochelle Eime said kids were likely to turn away from sport if it was about competition rather than fun.

“There should be less emphasis* on winning because a lot of people just want the social aspect where they just want to play with their mates,’’ she said.

Team sport. Picture: Stewart McLean
media_cameraTeam sport. Picture: Stewart McLean

“Fun is the main driver in sport and if you’re not having fun you’re going to drop out.”

La Trobe University sports psychologist Paul O’Halloran was “a big fan” of modified sports rules for children, such as cutting out ladders, premiership points and individual honours.

“One of the key factors is fun and I think using modified rules can make it more fun and attractive to more people,’’ he said.

“It’s not just about winning and losing, it’s about working collaboratively*.”

North Melbourne premiership footballer Sam Kekovich said different sets of rules for younger leagues were turning the next generation of Aussie sporting stars into cotton wool* kids.

“Our children need to understand that there are disappointments in life and they need an artillery* base to cope with them,” he said.

Sam Kekovich. Picture: Wayne Ludbey
media_cameraSam Kekovich. Picture: Wayne Ludbey

Four-time Olympic gold medal winning swimmer Dawn Fraser said kids should be taught the basics before being thrown into competitive sport but also needed to learn resilience*.

Dawn Fraser. Picture: Tait Schmaal
media_cameraDawn Fraser. Picture: Tait Schmaal

“It doesn’t matter if they’re being beaten 86-4, you do learn from losing,” she said.

“And you’ve got to reward them for doing some good so they should get a medal if they win or compete.”

Hawthorn Basketball Association institutes a mercy rule once a junior team is losing by 20 points “to promote sportsmanship and to stop teams from dominating’’.

The mercy rule means the game is ended when the goal different gets to a certain level.

New rules for junior cricket this summer has seen many children play on grounds with smaller bats and boundaries, shorter pitches, less fielders and reduced match times.

Many junior soccer leagues have waved off the off-side rule.

And Western Regional Football League has modified under 9 and 10 rules so no scores are kept, no finals played, premiership points and ladders are banned and there are no best-and-fairests.

Aussie kids playing futsul. Picture: Andy Brownbill
media_cameraAussie kids playing futsul. Picture: Andy Brownbill

America’s Cup sailor John Bertrand said overbearing* mums and dads were also a problem.

“The biggest challenge is the involvement of parents living off their children’s success or otherwise,” he said.

“The key for any of this stuff is for it to be fun … if the parents back off my experience is the kids stay in these sports longer.”

Prof Eime said a balance should be struck between competition and fun.

“I think winning and losing are very important things, you need to learn them in life … not everybody should win a prize,” she said.

GLOSSARY

mollycoddling: protecting
emphasis: focus
collaboratively: together
cotton wool: protection
resilience: how someone deals with problems
overbearing: controlling

LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

Activity 1. To win or not to win!

Read or listen to the article carefully then complete the following activities.

What is the issue being discussed in this article?

The article presents both sides of this issue. Draw up a table with two columns, one for each side being presented. Make a list of the arguments for each side of the issue in the appropriate column.

Extension: Your opinion

What is your opinion?
Do you think children’s sport should be modified?
Or should children play the same rules as adults?

Decide on your point of view and come up with at least three arguments to support your opinion. You may use arguments presented in the article or come up with your own. Write an exposition (persuasive piece of writing) presenting your opinion.
Make sure you include introduction, a paragraph for each argument with some supporting evidence and a conclusion.

Curriculum links: English, Health and Physical education

Time: allow 60 minutes to complete this activity

Activity 2. Winning and losing

One of the arguments for children not playing modified, scoreless sport is that we can learn something from winning and from losing.
Make a list of things that you may learn from winning a sporting event and a separate list of things you may learn when you lose a sporting event.

How do these lessons help them relate to other aspects of life?

Extension: Benefits of sort
What are the short and long term benefits of being involved in sport?
Think about how it benefits your health and wellbeing as well as skills and life lessons you might learn.

Create an advertisement for being involved in some type of sport.
Include the benefits of being involved in sport in your advertisement.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: English, Science, Critical and Creative thinking, Health and Physical education

VCOP ACTIVITY

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalists has used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?

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