• Sun, Jan 26 - 1:02 pm ET

Rugby Union Makes ‘Playing To Win’ Against The Rules Because Even Rugby Can’t Beat The PC Police

I’m the last person to get overly upset about the PC police. I’ve found that often when something is deemed “politically incorrect,” there is often a good reason. But even I think this is ridiculous. There are some changes being made to the rules of the Surrey Rugby union, part of the Rugby Football Union (RFU). The new rules state that kid’s mini rugby (which sounds like the most adorably violent sport ever) will no longer be able to play to win.

According to the rules, teams must also be “mixed ability” and be made weaker if they seem to be winning too easily. Oh yeah, and there must be “no overall winner.” WUT?What kind of messed up rugby rules are those? Obviously, since this IS rugby we’re talking about, people were furious. According to Simon Halliday, an ex-England International and board member at the Esher Rugby Club:

“We are appalled and have withdrawn from all Surrey rugby competition. In sport there are winners and losers. As long as you don’t demean the loser, it’s straightforward.”

This seems preposterous to me. I get that children’s sports often have scaled back rules to make it safer and easier for kids but to make winning and losing against the rules? Where is the sportsmanship in that? I get that “no score,” and “no winners” is a trend, but I think a huge lesson is lost when you start taking away the fundamentals of the game. Halliday is right, as long as the losing team isn’t humiliated or demeaned, then losing is just part of the sport.

Chris McGovern, the chairman of the Campaign for Real Education has the same opinion:

“This is a depressing confirmation of the stranglehold these misguided ideas have on our education system in the broadest sense, and it will betray generations of children.
“This is not in the interests of children. It will rob them of motivation and incentive, and does not prepare them for the real world.If you talk to five- or 10-year-olds they like competitive sport because children are naturally competitive.”

The RFU development director Steve Grainger made the point that the experience is supposed to be for the kids, and not driven by what the adults want, but come on? What kid doesn’t enjoy a little competition. We’re not talking the hunger games here, or even traditional rugby. This is mini rugby. The rules have already been made to fit young kids. Why take away the valuable lesson of winning and losing too?

Kids aren’t dumb. They will still be able to tell who is more skilled at the game and who isn’t. There will still be winners and losers, only without the structure of actual, decided winners to teach them humility and sportsmanship (along with a good coach who can guide them). I played various sports growing up. With the exception of volleyball, I was TERRIBLE at all of them. I lost constantly. But I learned to take defeat with grace and the few times I did win, I learned to do so with grace as well. Isn’t this the point of kid’s sports?

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  • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

    My daughter’s soccer team has sucked, two years in a row. The first year, they managed to tie only one game. This year they won two. The rest were all losses. However, it hasn’t demeaned her sports spirit in any way. If anything, she’s better for it. She always does her best, and has learned that you ccan’t control anyone but yourself. She has learned how not to be a sore loser, and how to treat people nicely when you do finally win. playing to win is realistic, and we all lose sometimes, and need a chance to learn to deal with those feelings. Geez, rugby rule makers.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      Didn’t you expect better from rugby, too?

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I kind of figured if you put your kid in rugby, you’re trying to instill some badassery in them. Not soften every blow that life ever deals.

  • EmmaFromÉire

    I’m sure it’ll be lovely, everyone can hang their participation certificate up next to their Olympic gold medal because hey, we can’t actually let people know that they suck at things!

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    If you can’t win, what is the point? Imagine a game of Monopoly where no one wins or a game of Risk where there is no world leader at the end. Who would watch NHL if we didn’t keep track of the score? Do all political candidates get a turn so no one loses an election?
    Winning is a rush. Losing is a huge part of life you must learn to live with. It’s exciting and interesting. Do we just now thrust kids into the real world suddenly without any preparation for the world of winning and losing? Do we not teach them to be gracious in their achievements over others and in defeat when they’re young? Do we really suck the fun out of childhood just that much more?
    Blegh. Count me out.

    • xvala

      High fives for being a hockey fan. (*grumbles about the Devils’ 7-3 loss last night*) I agree–shouldn’t we be teaching kids to have ambition? Removing the competition from everything just destroys the point and also the ability for kids to learn how to deal with losing and disappointment.

    • SusannahJoy

      That game was hilarious. But only because I’m a Sharks fan and have no vested interest in who won either way.

      Also, yeah, kids need to learn how to lose. I would call that a vital life skill.

  • K.

    Did this rule trickle down from “everyone gets an ‘A’!” in the classroom, or is it the other way around? As a teacher, who also volunteers for the school soccer team, I’ve had parents come in demanding to know why their child didn’t get a better grade and parents come in demanding to know why their child didn’t make the team. And really, what I want to say is, “Look, it’s pretty simple. Your child did not make the cut because s/he isn’t good enough. Your child should work harder next time.” The fact that I have to actually SAY this (couched in some other nicety-nice language) is ridiculous–most kids should have learned that if the outcome is not what you want, then you need to change your approach.

    Losing is part of life. Pretending that losing is not a part of life when around children is going to make adulthood a pretty hard pill to swallow for them.

    • Sara610

      I remember several years ago, a contestant who auditioned for American Idol didn’t make it past the first round. They were interviewing her afterward, and she was crying (understandable) and just kept repeating, “I don’t understand why I didn’t make it. I wanted it so much. I just wanted it SO MUCH, I don’t get why I didn’t make it.” Nothing about how hard she worked, or what she learned from the experience, or how she was going to keep trying, although maybe she did–who knows. But I just remember being struck by her apparently complete inability to understand that you can WANT something a whole lot, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. And this was a grown woman, not a child.

    • Paul White

      I want a mansion, and a water monitor SO MUCH but I still can’t have them.

    • Rachel Sea

      I want a genuinely magic wand like you can’t believe. I would settle for house cleaning pixies and a Jetson-style flying car, but I WANT a magic wand.

  • JustaGuest

    I actually like the idea of mixed-ability teams, since learning to make use of various strengths and weaknesses is useful. But I don’t like the idea that you can’t actually win a game; that seems really strange. (Games usually have victory conditions, after all.)

    • Alicia Kiner

      I always feel bad for the kids that are leaps and bounds better than the other kids on the teams… you know, the ones that should play up a level or two? My son always has one on his team, and my daughter played on a whole team of them. She hates soccer now because she learned absolutely nothing her first season out there because the coach was so used to having such talented kids that he didn’t know how to teach someone who had never played before. The other girls actually told her they didn’t want her to play in the games because she “wasn’t good.” Good news is… she loves cheerleading, and is a natural, so I guess she found her place.

    • pixie

      Mixed ability teams can be a great thing…if the coach is willing to and knows how to work with a variety of skill levels.
      It’s really unfortunate what your daughter experienced, though it’s good that she’s found something she loves. The coach isn’t necessarily a bad coach (not that you said he was), but he should learn how to teach children who have never played before or who might not have super natural soccer skills. He also should have discouraged the other girls’ negativity towards your daughter if he was aware of it (I know the parents should be doing this too, but as a coach, they’re supposed to encourage teamwork and helping each other improve at the sport; and coaches can give very valuable life lessons).

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      Yeah. My nephew’s hockey league has a thing every season, about a month or so in, where they ‘shuffle’ around all the players…apparently it’s meant to seem random but is done by ranking the players to avoid there being one team that’s totally stacked and just kills everyone else (and vice versa, having one team that loses every time), which seems fair enough…the parents all pay the same amount, and I can’t imagine it being very fun or motivating to be on a team that loses every single week. But they still play to win and have play-offs and trophies and all of that stuff.

  • Kay_Sue

    It is a shame that we have lost the concept that there are lessons to be learned both in victory and defeat.

    • Julie

      When my nephew was 5 he played soccer no one officially kept score, but he sure did. He knew if they had won or lost. He loved winning so much but the fact he knew when he lost, he was able to cope with the lose and move on.

  • Jallun-Keatres

    Even Special Olympics plays to win. WTF

  • Sara610

    When I was a kid, it was about learning to lose gracefully AND win gracefully. There was a place for good sportsmanship no matter whether you won or lost. This idiotic ruling completely takes away the opportunity for kids to learn that valuable life lesson.
    Not to mention–in LIFE, there is usually going to be a winner and a loser. If you apply for the big promotion and so does your colleague, your boss isn’t going to magically pull another job out of her ass because “it just wouldn’t be fair!” for one person to get it and not the other. That might mean that you can work hard, do everything you’re supposed to do and still not get it. It sucks and it’s not fair, but that’s life and if kids don’t learn to deal with that reality, brush themselves off and keep trying, they’re going to have a VERY tough time in the real world. And yes, I know they’re kids and kiddie rugby isn’t the same as corporate America, but we learn our lessons on how to deal with life’s challenges starting–and IMO largely–as kids. It’s never too early to learn perseverance and grit in the face of a challenge.

  • Lackadaisical

    Mixed ability rugger in primary school lessons I get, but you still need winners. I assume that this is the compulsory rugby in schools for younger kids, in which case my only problem is the lack of score. If it is for local kids clubs, or after school kids clubs competing with other schools then no, you should select the best kids for the team or else what is the point. By all means run a good team league and a B team league for enthusiastic duffers (and I speak as a sporting duffer) but still make the places on the first teasm mean something and choose the kids who give the team the best chance of winning.

  • pixie

    Mixed-skill teams I can get behind in less competitive leagues, same as having multiple divisions where one division is more competitive and has a higher skill level and the other is more mixed and is more for fun and enjoying the sport.
    But to cut out winning and losing entirely is extreme, even for small children. Kids learn pretty early on how to show sportsmanship (from what I’ve seen in martial arts competitions), and both winning and losing can be a good lesson. If a child, or team, wins and gloats, it can be a fantastic lesson in being a good and gracious winner. There’s nothing wrong with shaking hands with your competition and letting them know they did a good job. Even giving them pointers nicely can be a good thing. When it comes to losing, of course young kids will be super upset they didn’t win; losing is never fun, even for adults. But there’s always the lesson of turning defeat into a positive by telling them that they did good, but maybe next time they need to remember what they did in practice more carefully, or just practice more.
    I’ve “coached” kids at martial arts tournaments (volunteered in some form or another and made sure to watch the kids I help out with in class and give them pointers before and after) and seen a wide array of coaching styles. Yes I hate when some parents or instructors get really pissy with their kids if they lose, and even more so when I see kids being sore winners or sore losers. I try to tell the kids I help that they did their best (because I know they did), but they need to keep working on something(s) specific. I let them know that they won’t win everything, and that I lost a LOT when I was competing, but it was always incentive to make me try harder. If I think they’re feeling up to it and I know they’re friends with the winner, I sometimes even suggest they congratulate the winner of their match. It’s how I was coached as a kid, by my parents and my instructors, and it really helped me in not getting too hard on myself if I lost, and learning how to be a “good winner” if I won.
    The same can be applied to team sports, you just have to deal with more kids. Taking away winning and losing in sports isn’t doing these kids any favours and is taking away the chance for them to win valuable life lessons. Rugby, I expected better from you.

  • Justme

    I would say something about teaching kids to play for “the love of the game” but you know what I love about playing games? Winning. Or at least trying to.

    When we deny children the words “winner” or “loser” we might be protecting children from the disappointment of a loss, but we are also denying them the exhilaration of a game well played and a win well earned.

  • Alicia Kiner

    My son played soccer for 4 seasons, my daughter played for 1 and cheered for a football team for 1. None of these teams officially kept score. But you know what…every single kid on the teams/squad and a lot of the parents kept track. I had to start keeping track, simply because my kids wanted to know how they did. Kids need to learn how to handle winning and losing, and taking it away from them is only going to hurt them in the long run.

  • Lindsay

    When I was a camp counselor, we had a bunk war competition and the woman who was judging was very opposed to winning/losing. My six-year-old campers practiced more than an hour each day, came up with a dance, and were very proud of themselves. The other groups threw something together quickly and, for the most part, clearly weren’t as prepared as my girls. When it came time to announce the winners, they said, and I quote, “The winner is… Everybody! All the groups!” One of the girls looked at me and said, with utter sincerity, “If we’re all the winners, aren’t we all the losers, too?”

    Kids are not dumb, and they recognize when they work hard and it isn’t recognized. They had minimal motivation the rest of the summer for any of the song and dance competitions.

  • Kheldarson

    I’ll admit, I like the idea of no winners and no losers for the starting age groups of a sport. You know, 4-6 year olds where just kicking the ball is an accomplishment (and watching them flail as they try to is mildly hilarious. I’m a bad person. I know).

    But after that, you’re starting to learn to be skilled. To follow directions and work as a team. And the reward for doing well is to win. If you can’t win and know you’re improving that way, then what’s the point?

  • ted3553

    Nope, nope, nope, nope nope. Ridiculous. Why isn’t it ok to let our kids know that they’re better than someone else at something. I feel like we’re moving towards trying to make people feel bad because they’re skilled. Kids know if they’re better than others and what’s wrong with that. You also can’t take competitiveness out of people. Some of us just are more competitive than others naturally. I remember when I happened to see one of my sisters walking home across the vacant subdivision. We’d both walk faster and yell out at each other that we weren’t racing each other as we got faster and faster and eventually broke into full sprint with the loser yelling at the other ” I told you I wasn’t racing”

  • Paul White

    Didn’t ya’ll get the memo? Learning to lose is no longer important. Neither is learning to win. We are all special snowflakes that are too good to lose, but everyone else is too good for us to win. We’ll just muddle along happily.

  • Rachel Sea

    So all the kids lose. Great.

    This kids are going to be screwed when it comes time for them to accomplish anything, because they will have been taught that the only thing that matters is showing up.

  • pineapplegrasss

    seriously way too pc over the top. Don’t think these kids don’t watch scored games on TV with their dads lol or going to their siblings games and aren’t keeping score in the game themselves, even if the coaches aren’t. And isn’t keeping correct score part or learning the game? And how not to be a sore looser or winner?

  • brebay

    Ugh! They do know this is why so many millennials are so insufferable, right? Losing is a life skill, you have to practice it to learn not to let it turn you into a whiny asshole.

  • Eillek

    This is about the way parents behave and them role modelling appalling sideline attitudes and actions. The kids know exactly whether they won or lost but it’s the parents’ language that changes once those scores are recorded. Yes, we are going to win some and loose some but most importantly being gracious whether you win or loose should be the lesson.

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