Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

The Influence of Keeping Score on Parents' Achievement Goals,attitudes about Winning, and Game Behaviors

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

The Influence of Keeping Score on Parents' Achievement Goals,attitudes about Winning, and Game Behaviors

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Should youth sport leagues keep score? This question has been a source of contention for many parents. The debate arises because more than 2,300 youth sport leagues across the United States have eliminated score keeping (Hruby, 2003; Reiss, 2006; Smith 2003). The advantage of not keeping score is predicated on the belief that youth sport participants should be focused on benefits of participation, healthy activity, skillbuilding, and social interaction. Removing the score may also serve to counterbalance -hypercompetitive parents and a focus on winning that dominates everything from sports telecasts to video games" (Reiss, 2006, ¶ 7). Conversely, supporters argue that keeping score prepares children for the adult world, where competition and losing are commonplace. Jen Singer, a youth sport coach and former Boston University soccer player, believes keeping score is the point of the game, -otherwise, it shelters them. In a capitalist society, you have to learn to go for the goal, try to win" (Hruby, 2003, ¶ 50).

Given the immense differences of these philosophies, one might wonder why virtually no empirical evidence has surfaced comparing youth leagues that keep score with leagues that do not keep score. That is not to say there is a shortage of opinion on the topic. Internet blogs (Van Paasschen, 2008), newspaper editorials (Reiss, 2006; Smith, 2003), and old-fashioned talk around the water cooler suggests this topic is important to parents. With this debate in mind, the current research attempted to begin the empirical task of evaluating leagues with different score keeping philosophies.

Because of the powerful influence they have on their children in a sporting context (Arthur-Banning, Wells, Baker, & Hegreness, 2009; Dorsch, Smith, & McDonough, 2009; Jowett & Cramer, 2010; Keegan, Harwood, Spray, & Lavellee, 2009), and because they are the ones approving participation in specific leagues, parents of youth sport participants are a reasonable population with which to begin this investigation. Therefore, this research attempted to discern the differences, if any, between parents who enroll their children in a league that keeps score versus parents who enroll their children in a league that does not keep score. There are three variables that are likely to help explain such differences.

First, the motivational antecedents of parents may provide insight into their views on keeping score. Within the realm of physical education and sport, a plethora of research has been conducted to address what types of people, situations, or objects motivate individuals. Achievement Goal Theory (Nicholls, 1989) attempts to explain why humans are motivated to pursue various types of achievement behaviors. This theory postulates that one's goals in an achievement setting (i.e., sport) will fall under two dichotomous orientations. The first orientation is known as task goal orientation and emphasizes that success is defined by learning skills and demonstrating personal improvement. The second orientation is known as ego goal orientation and emphasizes that success occurs through means of social comparison (Nicholls, 1989).

Because achievement goal theory is built on the assumption that goal orientations are developed through both situational and dispositional factors, much of the research has focused on what achievement theorists have labeled motivational climate (Ames, 1992a, 1992b; Ames & Archer, 1987; Dubois, 1986; Duda & Hom, 1993; Escarti, Roberts, Cervello & Guzman, 1999; Keegan, Harwood, & Lavallee, 2010; Keegan et al., 2009; Knoppers Shiteman, & Love, 1986). Roberts & Treasure, 1995; White, Kavussanu, & Guest, 1998; White, 1996, 1998). Originated by the work of Ames and Archer (1988), motivational climate addresses the situational component of achievement goal theory and explains that the environment in which achievement behaviors occur largely serves to shape individual achievement goal orientations. …

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