Why some kids don’t like keeping score in games and sports

By Gail Belsky

At a glance

  • Keeping score during games or sports can be stressful for kids.

  • Some kids don’t like keeping score because they struggle with math or keeping track of information.

  • Others simply dislike competition.

Some kids love to be the one to keep score in games and know who’s winning. But others really don’t like it. They may even avoid playing games or sports if they think they’ll have to keep score.

Why do some kids not like to keep track of the score? And does it even matter? Here are some answers.

Skills involved in keeping score

Keeping score is a complicated task for kids. Think of a basketball game. Keeping score requires kids to:

  • Understand the rules and how much different shots are worth (for example, one point for a free throw and two for a layup)
  • Figure out what notation to make in the score book and where
  • Count and add numbers quickly and on the spot
  • Subtract points if a referee says a basket didn’t count
  • Keep several numbers in their head at the same time

What it means when kids avoid keeping score

Some kids avoid keeping score because they don’t like competition, and that’s OK. Or it might be too nerve-racking. If they’re responsible for the score and make a mistake, they might feel bad, or other kids may get mad at them.

In some cases, it’s because of the math involved. They may struggle with numbers or have math anxiety. Or they might have a hard time keeping track of many things at once.

If you’ve seen this type of avoidance and don’t know why it’s happening, take a closer look at the behavior. Is it the same no matter what the game or sport is? Do they avoid working with numbers in other situations?

See if you can pick up on patterns. If a child is struggling with math or anxiety, it will probably show up in many areas.

Remember that keeping score isn’t the most important part of sports and games. The point is to have fun, learn, and participate. If need be, you can help by spending time explaining how scoring works in a game or sport. The more kids know about scoring, the easier it becomes.

Key takeaways

  • Some kids don’t like competition and keeping score — and that’s OK.

  • If a child doesn’t like to keep score, it might be a sign of a challenge with math.

  • Don’t let the scoring discourage kids from playing or participating in a game.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Gail Belsky is executive editor at Understood. She has written and edited for major media outlets, specializing in parenting, health, and career content.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Mark J. Griffin, PhD was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School, a school for children with specific learning disabilities.