Ottawa Soccer League: Score Too High, You Lose

Ottawa has a new rule on the books for kids playing league soccer. Any team that goes ahead by more than five goals loses.

Yes, dear reader, your eyes do not deceive you. Parents who used to shout “You can do it!” will now be required to yell, “Equality! Equality!”

Kidding! I’m kidding—but only about the cheering. Ottawa club director Sean Cale said “the league’s 12-person board of directors is not trying to take the fun out of the game, they are simply trying to make it fair.”

How could this have happened? Well, Ottawa is the home of Canada’s capitol, and therefore has the highest per-capita density of bureaucrats in the country. Plus, the rule change is a necessary consequence of the obsession with equality.

Now, in baseball—in real baseball, not Ottawa’s no doubt upcoming re-imagining of the game—everybody knows that you should not stand at the plate like an egomaniac admiring the flight of your ball. You must not saunter towards first or stall along the way just because you hit a home run. You must run it out.

Why? Running it out shows respect. But if you grandstand, you’re likely to be beaned by the pitcher on your next at bat. This is only right and proper.

Everybody also knows that you must not steal when your team has a big lead and it’s late in the game. The reason this rule holds sway is the same as the previous rule: respect. Your team is going to win anyway, and the men on the other side just want to go home.

Your needless stealing shows you care more about your stats than camaraderie. Steal and you’ll pay the price. It might be by a beaning; or if you’re an infielder, you might see a pair of spikes from somebody sliding into you when he doesn’t really have to.

When I played for Bartz Standard in 1973, our coach would bench our best batters if we were up by more than six or eight runs, especially if it was late in the game. The rule had two consequences: we saved the other team from undue embarrassment, and I finally got a chance to bat.

Some of these coaches, it was true, wanted to win more than the kids did, but these coaches also knew that anything could happen. A team that was down seven in the ninth could score eight runs: it happens. Coaches followed the slacking-off etiquette, but cautiously.

Now, none of these rules—not in Little League, not in the Majors—are written. But everybody knows them and everybody plays by them.

This lack of codification is important. How many runs do you have to be up not to steal? Well, it depends. Could be as little as four if it’s the ninth. But it could be much higher if your team must win the game to stay in contention for the playoffs.

Everybody understands that there are circumstances when the unwritten rules can be broken. But if the unwritten rule becomes written, then all freedom to maneuver is removed. Decisions are taken away from the players and coaches and put into the hands on some pinhead busybody sitting in a cubicle. The game itself is changed.

The feminization of sports didn’t begin with Ottawa. It started even as far back as when I was playing, when leagues were forced to adopt “mercy” rules that went something like, “If a team is up by more than seven runs and it’s at least the sixth inning, then that team shall be declared the winner, and the game shall end.” Ottawa used to have a rule like that for soccer, when goals stopped counting after the lead grew “too large.”

But like nearly all bureaucratic meddling, these rule have the opposite of their intended effects. Instead of salving or saving the self esteem of the losing team, after the game and at the schoolyard the next day, the players on the losing teams face merciless taunts: “Ha, ha! You’re so bad that you had to have your parents stop the game.”

It’ll be the same in the Great White North with this new rule. Young Canadians will learn that one must not excel, that what used to be laudable is now worthy of scorn. They will learn that if you do too well, those in charge will punish you.

Come to think of it, with the way society is heading, these are good lessons to teach early.

Update massgopguy, over at Free Republic, offers a way around Ottawa’s rules: If your team is up by five, kick an own goal to be sure you win. Or, much worse, if you are down five goals, then kick an own goal, which causes the other team to lose!


  1. AverageJoe

    If “everyone knows” and “everybody understands” the unwritten rules of sportsmanship and respecting the other team by not humiliating them, then this new law would not be necessary. The question is, what happened? Who are the parents or coaches that refuse to follow the unwritten rules? Could it be that sports scholarships and college berths come into play so that students must pad their statistics at no consideration to others? It would have been nice journalism to include a few examples of these gung-ho coaches or parents in the story to get their side.

  2. Steve E

    Here we call it “Oz”awa

  3. gcb

    Young Canadians will learn that one must not excel

    That pretty much sums up our psyche right there anyway…

  4. WXRGina

    I must have done something wrong when trying to post earlier, so I’ll try it again…

    Average Joe, I think the point of all this is not necessarily that there are so many coaches and teams breaking the unwritten rules of etiquette, but the point is more about observing the creeping socialism/communism in the West.

    The left demands equal outcomes, when in reality, equal outcomes are impossible. What ends up happening is not that everyone is brought up to the same level, but that everyone is brought down to the same level.

    The feminization of our society is a very sad thing to behold! In fact, it makes me sick.

  5. Doug M

    Doesn’t that suggest that if you are down 4 nil, you should kick an own-goal?

    Last year, there was a high school basketball (girls) team who won by 100 points. The coach pulled his starting players ater getting out to an early lead. However, he encouraged these back-up players to still play hard. He was fired the next day for his unsportsman-like behavior.

  6. Briggs


    Just wait a second… Have we seen that this bizarre rule can lead to equally bizarre behavior if the goal is to win a game?

    Teams will fight hard to win the ball and score own goals. The faster they can score them, the faster they will win. But the other team will be fighting just as hard to do the same thing.

    In a weird way, this rule changes very little, since both teams will still try hard to score goals, just not against the other team!

    Love it!

  7. I was going to comment something about “cheese eating surrender monkeys” but changed my mind.

    That said, it seems a shame “adults” in Ottawa are members of youth soccer teams and “children” make up some kind of board of directors. Apparently no one on that board has taken the trouble to bone up on “la Loi des Conséquences Imprévues”. Never fear, though, they soon will become all too familiar with the ramifications.

  8. Ron C

    “Piling on,” as it’s known colloquially, is generally treated as bad behavior in most athletic endeavors except for US college football, where exceptionally talented teams (e.g., Florida, Texas, etc.) often have scores in the 60s.

    Piling on another team that has been doing that to you in years past, however, is colloquially known as “payback,” an as we all know, payback is a bitch.

    One example of payback came in last year’s college football season, when Stanford went for 2 after scoring a touchdown late in the 4th quarter already up 20+ points. Not that I had a dog in that fight, but it did seem righteous.

  9. PJ

    Wait, how was the skunk rule (or mercy rule as you called it) feminizing?

    It’s not fun for either party to play a game in which one team is hopelessly outclassed. That’s just not sportsmanlike. Unless you’re an asshole you’re not going to enjoy wrecking someone who poses no challenge to you and unless you’re a masochist you’re not going to enjoy being so wrecked.
    It’s not as if you feel special or proud of being skunked. One year my Little League team had a 100% loss record (well, we tied once). While we were never particularly happy about any of the losses, the one game where we got skunked was especially shameful.

  10. JH

    PJ, you beat me to it.

    The feminization of sports didn’t begin with Ottawa.

    My “daughter” plays JV basketball… is this the feminization of sports you have in mind?

    Whatever it is, is it good or bad?

    I think what young athletes learn by playing sports hinges heavily on the actions and attitudes of coaches and parents. I doubt that young athletes nowadays would consider the rule feminizing though.

    Hmm… how can I feminize my comment?!

  11. Ken

    What is most likely to happen is that the kids will allow the other team, and very likely favored friends on the other team, to score on an as-needed basis to tweak the point spread. The kids are smart enough to realize that any response that is too blatant & contrary to the asserted “fair play” & “sportsmanship” philosophy, will only prompt more meddling by the [so-called] grownups. Anything but that.

    Tweaking the point spread is called point-shaving & is usually done to influence gambling payouts. Here’s a site describing that:

    So, in their wisdom & sense of fairness what that particular Canadian soccer league’s overseeer’s have effectively created is an accelerated advanced placement development program of the basic skills underlying price-fixing, contract bid-rigging and so forth — and to pull this off while making everything appear “fair.”

    Those are life-skills that can really pay off in the future.

    And to think that:

    a) most kids don’t learn that until college, or later, and
    b) most kids/people never learn that at all

    one can see just how truly progressive our liberal neighbors to the north really are.


  12. RK

    If they implement this ‘equality’ rule for ice hockey, then I will believe that they truly value it above all else.

    However, mercy rules are common in many amateur sport. Even softball leagues for adults have mercy rules. Perhaps we should not be too worked up about them.

  13. But “mercy rules” do not award a loss for those that score too high; usually the additional scores don’t count or the game is called. To reverse that process is to attempt to reward ineffective play and penalize skill. What actually happens is the skillful player’s parents will move them on to tougher leagues, all-star travel teams, etc., and the poorer players will never again be exposed to a higher level of play. They grow up to be unknowing losers because so-called adults forgot soccer is a game, not a maturation process.

    A culturally and ethically mixed under 10 team I once coached in a post-season tournament worked its way up to the final game against a team of Hispanic junior Pele’s from Selma, California. I was so out-coached it was embarrassing, but our game kids struggled to a 2-3 loss, the decider coming in the last minute. The other team was thrilled! It was the first time in three years they had even been scored upon. Their best game ever, they said. Kids know what’s real, and what’s “arranged”. Play on!

  14. john

    the spam filter is horrid.

    In short, this rule is stupid, and it in no way resembles lefty, liberal, feminine, black, mexican, Obama or anything else a political conservative would consider marxist commie evil.

    Nor does it promote fair play, equality under the law(rules), or equal access to participation that a leftist liberal might actually support.

  15. WXRGina

    The “feminism” of our society is seen quite clearly in political correctness. PC behavior and expectations are “feminization” in the sense that people are kept from expressing, often the most basic common sense truths and ideas for fear of “offending” someone.

    Women or girls playing in sports is not what we’re talking about here. It’s a general de-masculinization across the board of what used to be “common sense,” and real, old-fashioned leadership.

    Look at the onslaught of women in high places–in the government, military, academia–everywhere! I’m a woman, and I don’t like it. These women, so very many of them leftists, are driving public policy and HAVE been for decades now. We’re seeing the feminist chickens coming home to roost.

    Nancy Pelosi, anybody?

  16. Smarty Marty

    Doug M writes: “Doesn’t that suggest that if you are down 4 nil, you should kick an own-goal?”

    There’s nothing quite like an ill-considered rule or law to create perverse behaviour.

    Why wait until you are down 4 nil? If the objective is to win as quickly as possible, the logical thing to do would be to either start scoring own-goals from the opening kick off, or fail to defend and let the other team score. Thus your opponent loses (by scoring 5 goals) all the more quickly.

    Once the opposing team gets wise to your strategy, though, the perverse behaviours will change. Teams will start defending the opposition goals (instead of their own), with both teams aiming to prevent “own goals”.

    The game will get really interesting then, because goalies are only allowed to handle the ball around their own goal. So rather than having that player act in a defensive role, it may be advantageous to have the goalie at your own end (the one we are now trying to score on), so that they can pick up the ball and run it into the goal.

    And so we end up back where we started, with equally matched teams playing close-fought games.

    Of course, if one team is more equal than the others (to paraphrase Orwell), a new rule will have to be implemented. This new rule would invert the new one just introduced: “If one team begins to lose by 5 runs, they will automatically lose.” And we return to the world we knew yesterday, prior to this whole absurdity.

  17. john

    the onslaught of women in high places…. I’ll assume you don’t mean women in high places are being bludgeoned.

    In a representative government we have 17% of elected officials representing 51% of the population if, as you imply, women are only out to represent women.
    I find it appalling that only 17 Republicans in the House and 4 Republicans in the Senate are women. The numbers for Democratic females in Congress are higher but still low. It is clear that the masculinization of US Government is alive and well. The fact you can even describe ideas such as equal access and impartiality as feminizing speaks volumes of the masculinization of our country.

    The left doesn’t demand equal outcome, they demand equal access. When equal access is assumed and something close to equal outcome doesn’t occur, the Left investigates whether equal access actually exists, and the Right assumes it is a result of incompetence.

    Exactly what basic common sense truth are you suppressing to keep from offending someone? It was once a basic common sense truth that a black man only existed to pick your cotton and that he could never be good enough to play such refined sports as baseball and basketball.

    Now it is basic common sense truth that someone who doesn’t check “white” on their Cornell application obviously took a more deserving white kid’s enrollment slot. Remove the last name of the student and the name of the school attended from the application and see how many Choate Rosemary grads are accepted into Yale. I’d venture a guess it would be less that the 15% they currently boast. When I was waitlisted for early enrollment at Princeton, it wasn’t some broken home mexican girl that had my slot; it was 62 white boys from a graduation class of 200 at Lawrenceville with tons of cash and lower SAT scores that had my slot occupied.

  18. stosh

    It’s a game, and I’m a natural contrarian – if I was a coach in that league, I’d tell my team our goal that season was to go 0 and 10 – that we were going to shoot for a 6 goal lead in every game we play.

    Screw ’em.

  19. DEBEE



  20. JH


    Well, my crooked humor failed. I know Briggs is not talking about female playing sports. So you think feminization is bad. I find your view of feminization interesting.

    I’ll tell you this. I agree “rules” are feminization in the sense that Mom was the one who made all the rules in my family. Not all her rules were smart and reasonable. However, none of her children ever thought that her “stupid” rules were more feminine than the reasonable ones.

    As far as I am concerned, feminism is a passé because it succeeded. I have benefited greatly from the feminist movement though.

    In fact, do we need to drag politics into every issue?

  21. Yooper Paul

    I wonder if they will do this with Hockey?

  22. WXRGina

    It’s okay, John, that my points are not clear to you. I was not speaking about women representing women. There’s that identity politics of the left again.

    I was talking about liberalism, plain and simple; so you see, the “men” in the House and Senate can be just as “feminized” as the women.

    The left most certainly does demand equal outcomes. Equal access is not good enough for them; if it were, well, things would be much different in our country. For one thing, we probably wouldn’t be spending all these jillions of dollars on welfare payments to able-bodied people.

    To JH: I’m sorry for glancing over your humor about your daughter’s sports. I did think it was funny, though–feminizing your comment.

    As for bringing politics into “everything,” well, politics pretty much IS in everything nowadays, even kids’ soccer.

  23. Briggs


    The aptly named Smarty Marty wins the prize. He alone understood the unique absurdity of the new rule (the consequences of which I explained in my comment).

    And did I really write “feminization”? Another dratted typo. Will you forgive me? I meant to write “masculinization.”


    Yes, the spam filter is awful. But just in the last two hours, I received a dozen new spams, so I need some kind of control.

  24. Smarty Marty

    In addition to the perverse behaviours that will be created by this rule, after pondering this further, there is another element worth mentioning — the notion of “sportsmanship”.

    Your initial post spoke about the “unwritten rules”, those elements of how the game is played that speak not about the technical elements (how many players, size of the ball, etc.), but the culture of play. How someone behaves outside the written rules gives us a chance to assess their ethical conduct, how they treat others — in other words, their character. When a team runs up the score, it says something about their character. When a team clearly outmatches their opponent and doesn’t run up the score, it says something different about their character.

    We should appreciate those who act with grace and dignity, whether winning or losing, even if they are not on the side we are rooting for. (For that matter, how we the audience react to our team’s behaviour says something about our character, too.)

    As the adage goes, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. The worst thing about this new rule is that it removes an opportunity to learn this important lesson from the soccer playing kids in Ottawa.

  25. JH

    Mr. Briggs,

    So now my question is: how is the rule masculinizing? Is it good or bad? *_^

  26. brad.tittle

    I see this as yet another attack on the use of judgment.

    The overlords don’t want people to make decisions about fuzzy areas of life. So many areas of life are really fuzzy and require you to “guess” at the right answer. Whether it is stealing a base in the 9th inning or kissing your girlfriend in a public place, you have to exercise a little bit of judgment.

  27. can’t stop myself…….red flagged smarty marty’s goalies for “hand balls” once they left their own creases. Now the strategy comes in. What to do with the ensuing penalty kicks.

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