SCORE RUN UPS and THE “MERCY RULE”
The by-laws of the Troy Youth Soccer League provide that the organization exists for the following purpose:
ARTICLE II – Purpose: The purpose of this league shall be to provide an opportunity for the youth of the City of Troy to learn, develop and play amateur soccer for the betterment of their physical and social well-being. To this end, the league shall do any and all acts desirable in their furtherance of the foregoing purpose.
The “mercy rule” is one of the many rules by which soccer is played in the TYSL soccer system. It is my understanding that the mercy rule exists for the reason that, absent a specific benchmark, some parents/coaches/teams will lack the experience, judgment, or will to refrain from running up the score to astronomical numbers, in the process completely crushing the spirit of the opposing team. Hence, an arbitrary benchmark, a relief valve of sorts, was set because EACH team’s participants are entitled to the betterment of their physical and social well-being.
Teams are put together by reference to geographic boundaries; there are no tryouts, no draft. Every player who signs up, even those who have never played soccer (or any organized sport), gets to play at least half of every game. Occasionally, therefore, highly experienced/talented teams (some with children who have “travel soccer” experience) meet highly inexperienced/untalented teams in competition.
In my opinion, one of the cornerstones of “good sportsmanship” is knowing when to exercise appropriate discretion and restraint. I don’t believe it is good sportsmanship to simply mercy the opponent in the shortest time possible. It is not good sportsmanship to demonstrate lack of empathy/respect for the dignity of others simply because the rules allow it or because one has the skills to do it (even if your team was itself once similarly poorly treated). This strategy ends the game early, and then NO ONE plays any more soccer; this strategy often destroys rather than builds up the participants’ physical and social well-being.
I understand that the rules do not require coaches to take any specific steps to attempt to avoid mercies. Every game must have a winner and a loser. That having been said, however, TYSL does encourage coaches to consider that it might be appropriate and in the best interest of all participants to consider a variety of strategies that might minimize the chance of a mercy occurring, while at the same time fostering the development of the skills of the players on both teams. For example, when the score nears the mercy limit and until the score gets close again, the team that is up could:
1) agree to play a man (or two) short;
2) require its players to make extra passes before scoring (focusing on making assists and good passes instead of scoring);
3) put its best players in positions that they don’t usually play (goalie or defense) to round out their soccer experience/knowledge; or
4) require its better players to make most kicks with their off foot.
There may be other strategies (this list is not intended to be exhaustive); the only limit is the limit of imagination. The only requirement is that the respective coaches agree to try to avoid having the game end in a mercy.
It may be trite, but I believe that, even though there must always be a winner and a loser as far as the final game score is concerned, everyone in the TYSL house soccer community wins when we all work toward betterment of everyone’s physical and social well-being. In fact, I believe that’s the core mission (purpose) of the TYSL. Thanks for your time.
Yours in soccer,
Gabriel B. Locher
Director of Coaching, TYSL