We’ve just registered Chatterboy for his first soccer season – he’ll be in the Under 6s. We thought long and hard about it, as we’re not sure he’s going to enjoy it at the beginning, but think it’s really important to learn a social sport that you can continue throughout life.
So we found a few friends of Chatterboy’s who will also be starting in the under 6s (sadly the girls we knew weren’t interested) and thought we could sweeten the deal by having them all in the same team so that they could have fun together. As an added benefit, we might be able to carpool as we criss cross our bit of Sydney to go to all the games on Saturday mornings.
No way apparently. The club explained to us that because, in a few years, they will be grading them properly by ability, they have to grade them now, even at the very beginning, to toughen them up for the idea that they can only play with children of the same ability. You have to make friends with the people dumped in your team.
Now in one sense, I understand the idea of grading by ability. I have been tentatively pushing for Chatterboy’s school to think about ability grading as they go into Year 1, particularly for the top and bottom ends of the ability range (where I and the research think it makes most sense, providing the curriculum is also differentiated, as the range is greatest). However, I find it ironic that it is quite socially unacceptable to talk about ability grading at school this young (even after a year of teaching the kids and starting to understand their strengths and weaknesses), but that a soccer club can happily and without apparent opprobium choose the teams totally by grade and ignore the considerable pluses the children might get from playing with friends.
Learning to deal with people different from yourself is always quoted as a reason not to have ability grouping in a school setting. In a sport setting, which in theory is something you do for fun, that’s clearly not a consideration.
I really hope Chatterboy likes his soccer – it’s the favourite game to watch of both Mr Penguin and me (although I’ve never played it) but I wish it wasn’t getting so serious so young.