The mercy rule in youth sports has been around ever since my kids started playing years ago. I experienced it mostly in softball because my daughter grew up playing and my husband coached it for 10 years. The softball mercy rule said this: if one team was up by 10 after 4 innings, the game ended.
I never really had a problem with it because losing either way–either by 10 or 20–was humiliating.
Mercy Rule: Let’s debate
What do you think about the mercy rule?
Does it teach our kids to show compassion for the other team? Or does it teach them to not give their best effort at all times? (It bothered me to see players slow down when they were running with the ball and just walk out of bounds or let themselves get tackled).
Does it save kids from the embarrassment of losing too horribly? Or does it teach them to expect others to take it easy on them if they aren’t doing too well, a sort of “mercy entitlement”?
Is it really making the “losers” feel better? Or is it making the “winners” feel superior because they were kicking butt and now they can just play around because the other team stinks so bad?
Do our kids learn how to play with excellence? Or do they learn that it’s okay to be sloppy?
Where’s the Compassion?
I believe very strongly that we should teach our kids to show compassion, even in youth sports. Teach them to play clean, help opposing players up, recognize good play on the opposing side, help hurt players, apologize for injuring another player or for taking a cheap shot.
But I’m not so sure that keeping kids from the emotional hardship of losing too badly is really doing them a favor. Instead, it may be feeding a victim mentality and stunting the growth of persistence and strength in their lives.
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