"Non-Competitive" Sports and Politics

Katy Grimes: An advertisement in today’s Capitol Morning Report from Sacramento City Councilman Kevin McCarty, requests parent volunteers to help coach “non-competitive” kids soccer. Unfortunately, this typifies Councilman McCarty’s brand of politics.

Non-competitive sports? Is that anything like non-competitive chess? Or a non-competitive game of Monopoly? Is there a non-competitive hockey league in America? Didn’t McCarty run a campaign for state Assembly recently? Did he win or lose, or will he share Roger Niello’s old seat with opponent Roger Dickinson so that no one is a loser?

Previously, all sports were considered competitive – even individual sports because eventually one had to compete against someone else. Fencing, swimming, gymnastics or running, there is competition. Sports were thought healthy for kids since they taught kids not only teamwork, but helped instill work ethic. The self-esteem gained from succeeding and achieving was thought at one time to be a positive experience.

But today, being competitive appears to politically incorrect. The thinking is that if everyone can’t win a blue ribbon or trophy for first place, team sports are bad and children are irreparably damaged from the hurt of the loss. There are no winners and losers today – everyone is a winner on today’s “non-competitive” teams.

Of course, I’m being petulant.

There are plenty of seriously competitive sports and teams, even for kids, but parents have to seek those out. To call a soccer team “non-competitive” is ridiculous. Why not call it a “recreation” soccer team; identify it as a friendly, fair team where all of the kids gets time to play.

By taking the competition out of sports, the game should be renamed “Socialist Soccer,” which many people feel the game already is. Convinced that soccer teaches kids all the wrong lessons in life, National Review contributor Stephen Moore wrote in 1998, “In soccer, every mother’s child is above average. There’s no shame in losing and a tie is the likely outcome. The game’s egalitarian philosophy extends to the absurdity of giving every kid a trophy at the end of the season.”

Moore equates sports and capitalism and explains, “The purpose of a capitalist economy is to produce the maximum output for the least amount of exertion.”

One benefit of sports is to teach children that they will get out of the sport what they put into it. But that apparently is contrary to the euro-mindset sport, offering little or no reward for competitiveness and effort, with low scoring games.

America was not built on a zero-sum mentality – for every win there must not be a loss. What a negative lesson to teach a kid who is striving to be the best at something, or even has a God-given talent and achieves above others.

“Non-competitive” sports were named such for liberal parents who can’t bear teaching that you win some and you lose some; some people are better than you at some things, but it’s okay to shine at the thing you are good at.

The zero-sum mentality has infected far too much of society today, including sports. Even though calling sports “non-competitive” may make parents feel better, the damage to kids is obviously lost on those same parents. Preparing kids for a lifetime of excuse-making for failing to achieve and mediocrity produces a culture full of bureaucrats and few achievers.


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  1. Steven Greenhut
    Steven Greenhut 1 July, 2010, 14:03

    You are completely wrong about soccer being a socialist sport. You probably like football, which as George Will pointed out, has the two worst things about American society — senseless violence and committee meetings. Soccer rules, called laws, actually epitomize a free market model. Here is a column I wrote about it: http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/soccer-22389-law-government.html. Basically, the soccer referee is supposed to let the players play and stay out of the way. The spirit of the law, not the letter of it, is what matters in soccer.

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  2. Katy Grimes
    Katy Grimes 1 July, 2010, 14:28


    George Will never played football. I at least played four years of powder puff football in high school.


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  3. John Wenger
    John Wenger 1 July, 2010, 16:32

    You guys are ridiculous, I coached in Councilmen McCarty’s “non-competitive” baseball league and it was great. This league provides FREE baseball gear to kids in low-income areas, most of them have never played a sport in their lives, but they come out because they want to learn how to play the game in a non-threating environment with kids who are learning too regardless of skill level. The kids obviously still wanted to do better then the other team and reach their highest potential, they just did it without keeping score because score doesnt matter when you are learning. I suggest you go out and watch this non-competetive league and see what it does for communities, you know how many parents came up to me thanking me for teaching their kids about respect, good sportsman ship, etc. Most of them would say “I’m just happy my kid is staying off the streets and is being active. You guys absolutely disgust me, bashing someone for providing a great program to under-privileged kids. There’s MORE to sports then just winning, there’s morals and respect too, I guess no one ever taught you that!!!!!!!!!

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  4. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 1 July, 2010, 20:06

    The league doesnt have to be “noncompetitive” in order for low income kids to play, or for inexperienced kids to learn, the only difference is that the kids who keep score are going to have a better chance of getting a free college education or making a living by playing that game since they will learn what it feels like to lose and they will strive to get better to make sure they experience that feeling as few times as possible. Never having to be disappointed from a loss or getting the thrill of a win is completely defeating the purpose of sports.

    Thats why the world series is 7 games. Thats why the Superbowl has overtime. Thats why Hocky has shootouts. All so there is no Tie!

    And Steven, as Americans learned from the world cup, the referees dont let the players play, they call phantom penaltys at critical moments. The refs are more like dictators since they can do what they want and even when everyone knows they screwed up real bad, they dont have to explain their actions at all. Kind of like CARB. Everyone knows that the only good thing soccer ever gave to America was Soccer Moms.

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  5. pablo
    pablo 6 September, 2011, 02:58

    Look I want to have my say only beacuase I cant let soccer or how it should called football. Be trashed like that. First of all I dont know how you play football in America, but in south America is a sport which requires of your full effort and losing is shameful. I know that isnt healthy, but at the same time giving trophies to kids just for shwoing up is just being mediocre. I think there´s space for everything, there´s sapce for competitiveness(as long as it´s fair) and for fun. So you are able to give more than you´re total best,to not be afraid of pushing the boundries on the game and to want to win,(after all many sports are based in physicla contact) but at the same time, if you have to lose you should be a good sportsman a be able to congratulate your opponent and to know that it´s just a game.
    PS:maybe you should play rugby.

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  6. dylan
    dylan 22 February, 2012, 11:05

    football being senseless violence? if you have nevered played you would not understand the goal of the game and that everyone has a job that must be done. I played football for one year and it being senseless vialence uhhh sorry but no its not.

    Reply this comment
  7. Sam
    Sam 10 August, 2012, 06:47

    Comparing sports and capitalism is right on the money. You beat others to stand on their heads and be “humber 1” (whatever that means). Being “king of the hill” is the aim of life for capitalists, and that is what sports are for, to train you to live in such a culture, a culture where “some win and some lose”, as so “wisely” put by the columnist. There are many many cultures on this planet, some have survived for thousands of years, but few are as destructive to the world and to our species as capitalism is. We are in the middle of a global ecological crisis because of this system, and here we have people defending the training system called sports so that more young people can be indoctrinated into such a devastating way of life. I don’t know what non-competitive sports are…seems like an oxymoron… but at least it looks like some people are awakening to the fact that there are other ways of raising their kids…healthier for them and for the planet. Personally I do not play sports. I do exercise though. I swim in the ocean and scuba dive, climb in the mountains and hike in the outdoors, do paragliding in my spare time, and quite often simply go out for nice long walks with friends to chat and appreciate the beauty of nature. I feel no need to beat other people to prove I am “good”, but I do challenge myself whenever I go exercise…it’s simple physiology. Only people with no self esteem or self discipline need to battle against others to feel good about themselves. If you must battle, battle your own self and improve on your own. It will be more challenging to you, and better for you and the planet.

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