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Pay for play – innocent or evil?

Submitted by on Saturday, 8 November 2008 No Comment

I was naive enough last season to be shocked the first time I saw it: A Dad reeling off dollar bills after a soccer game, one for each goal his son had scored.

I mentioned it at work the following Monday and a co-worker scoffed at yet another example of my fuddy-duddiness. His son also gets dollars for goals. And for hits in baseball.

Well not me, I told him. Big Guy’s going to play for the fun of it, not because he has an extra incentive to score points.


Big Guy lost his Olympic eligibility today: Three goals scored, three bucks paid after the game from a family friend.

Though Big Guy was happy to have the money — “Oooh! I can buy Cheetos!” — it didn’t make a huge impression on him, any more than his three-goal performance did when he was in the middle of it. He’s scored so much this season that by now, Week 8, he pretty much shrugs it off.

Which I say not in a boastful way, because I’m full aware that a lot of it’s because he’s an elder statesman in a league of 4- and 5-year-olds. Next year when he’s 6 and on a team with 7-year-olds, he’ll be back to eeking out a goal every few games.

And I’m happy he shrugged off the money because, while I’m not as self-righteously indignant about it as I was a year ago, I’m still opposed to pay for play.

I also doubt that it does any good. The parents used to dole out a dollar for every A on a report card, but I never remember thinking, “I’m going to be sorry if I don’t study a little bit harder for this science test and miss out on a buck at the end of the semester.”

What also bothers me: Most rewards I’ve seen recognize individual performance in team sports. Why a dollar for a hit but not a sacrifice bunt? And let’s not overlook defense. Offense is only half the game.

In Big Guy’s case, a dollar per pass might not be a bad idea. He went through a brief spurt midway through this season where he’d give it up to a teammate if he got in a jam. Lately he’s more likely to battle another yellow jersey.

But Big Guy can’t spell team yet; he doesn’t know there’s no “I” in it.

He’ll grasp the concept later, once he advances to a level where they actually keep score and he finds out that, while three goals is a blast, it’s not much fun if you lose in the process. Even if you do get $3 after the game.

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