Should You Keep Score In Youth Sports Games (The Answer May Surprise You)

Is keeping score in a T-ball game with 4 year old kids really necessary?  The answer to the question is actually, yes, it is necessary and if you are a coach, or running a league, score should always be kept during a game.  That may surprise the “everyone is a winner crowd”, but there are important reasons as to why score should be kept.

This is definitely a tough concept for some parents to deal with.  They want their son or daughter to have fun and not worry about the score, and get a snack and a juice box when the game is over and go home happy.  They also want their kid to get a shiny trophy at the end of the year for playing. 

boy in blue and white baseball jersey running on brown soil field during daytime

Now I agree with a 4 or 5 year old getting a trophy at the end of the year for playing (come on, they’re 4 years old, give the kid a trophy), and I even agree with the snack and juice box at the end of the game (okay maybe not with the juice box part…unnecessary sugar and I’m a member of the sugar police…that sounds like a 70’s disco group…The Sugar Police)…but what I don’t agree with is at the end of the game telling the teams the score was 0-0.  Here’s a few reasons why it’s important to keep score during a game, no matter what the age.

Winning and Losing Are Good Lessons to Learn

There’s an important lesson everyone participating in sports needs to learn.  You can’t win all the time…Well unless you’re Tom Brady…but even Tom loses once in a while…even if it’s not his fault (Can you tell I may be a Tom Brady fan, I’m not sure if that’s going to stop you from reading the rest of this or not but I needed to say it…Anyway, winning and losing are part of signing up for sports and it’s important for your child (and maybe you) to learn this from the beginning. 

Nobody likes losing, or watching their child lose.  Unfortunately it’s a part of the game.  Sports are meant to be competitive.  Now there are certain degrees for that competition for certain ages, let’s keep that in mind.

softball player about to catch the ball

I like to use my experiences during my time as an umpire or referee rather than when I played or coached because an official, I didn’t care who won or lost.  So in terms of keeping score, it should be done but there are times when it should be done in good taste.  If a team is beating a team by 10 runs in a baseball game, not only should there be a rule to stop the game after a certain inning, but runs shouldn’t be added to the scoreboard if it gets too out of hand. 

It’s a little more difficult to have a point rule in basketball, but I’ve been a referee during a game where a team was up by 40 points after the first quarter and the other coach pulled her team off the court and they literally left the building because it got so out of hand.  What my point is, is that keeping score is important, but if another team is getting embarrassed a line should be drawn.

Keeping Score Keeps Players Engaged

You would be surprised at how many T-ball players used to ask me what the score was when I was coaching.  Sometimes that’s all the paid attention to.  At that young age, kids are starting to learn the game.  They are learning that if you make it all the way around the bases, you score a run.  So let’s not patronize them by saying, “Oh little Timmy, runs don’t matter, it’s 0-0 the whole game.”  Little Timmy’s response will probably be “Why the hell are we playing if there’s no score.”  This may work if you’re playing with toddlers who are still learning how to swing a bat, but most T-ball aged kids care about the score and will ask every minute of every inning if they could.

two person holding white baseball ball

Also, if these kids know that they’re losing, it’s going to get them to try harder and maybe stop picking dandelions in the outfield.  (Actually let’s face it, they’re probably going to be picking dandelions regardless if they’re winning or losing).  If they know they need to score a run to win the game though, I guarantee you they’re going to swing a little bit harder than they would if it’s 0-0 and nothing matters.

Parents Will Learn How To Act

Oh, you parents in the stands, I really do love you.  Again, as someone who has umpired and refereed hundreds of games, I’ve seen it all.  I see how the stands act when it’s a close game, when it’s a blowout, and when their team is getting embarrassed.

If it’s a “no-score league”, parents will naturally not worry about winning and losing (which is actually a good thing).  The problem is, when they move up to the next league and now all of a sudden their son or daughter’s team is losing 10-0, they lose their minds.

people stadium ball game

Teaching parents early on that their son or daughter is going to win, or lose, will help them learn how to act during a game.  Now you may be saying, “But Joe, I’m pretty sure I will know how to act at my son’s T-Ball game, I don’t need to learn,” Well, then you may be in for a rude awakening.  I’ve talked to the nicest parents before a game, and then when their team is losing, they turn into complete…..animals…I think I can say that term still…By learning to watch their kid lose or win from a young age, a parent will be able to transition from league to league and be able to control themselves as the leagues get more competitive.

While I always want to stress fun as the most important thing when it comes to kids in sports, keeping score actually does help ensure the child will have more fun throughout their career.  Staying classy with the score keeping and making sure not to embarrass teams is also a very important key.

If keeping score still doesn’t sound like a good idea for your league, try the 0-0 score for a game or two, and I promise, you’ll find out what pandemonium really is.

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