Here is an interesting story about a new "mercy rule" in California youth football:
As reported by Sacramento NBC affiliate KCRA, the Northern California Federation Youth Football League (NCFYFL) instituted stiff new penalties for any teams that beat opponents by 35 points or more. Specifically, those teams will be fined $200 and their coaches will be suspended from all league activities for two weeks. The penalty is a drastic change for the league of 7-13 year-olds, which previously issued teams with a warning following such blowouts and required a written description that detailed what the victorious team had done to try and keep scores low.
With the new, harsher penalties, some players have begun insisting that their development is being hurt. One team has stopped attempting any field goals, leaving kicker James McHugh unable to attempt any scoring kicks except points after touchdowns. That's a problem for a 13-year-old who hopes to serve as a high school placekicker in fall 2014.
I get that these are 7-13 year old kids, so not even junior varsity in high school. I can imagine how awful it would feel to be that age and on the receiving end of the kind of weekly thrashings that the Oregon Ducks dish out to opponents. Therefore, I do agree that some kind of mercy rule is desirable at this level.
However, the actual rule in place now -- the new rule, as opposed to the old one -- seems quite heavy-handed. If you outscore your opponent by too many points, you can't coach for two weeks? And you get fined $200?
How about some situational awareness? Sure, if you're up by 35 points and you're still throwing deep passes in the fourth quarter, I can see why the league might want to have a talk with that coach. Even more so if the coach has left in the first string starters. . . . But if the coach is playing the second or third string backups and running the ball, and the backup running back breaks free, is it really any better if he runs all the way to the 1 yard line and then "fumbles" the ball so as not to score? Or if the running back scores accidentally anyway, so the coach orders his team to lay down on the ensuing kickoff so that the other team can score a quick and easy touchdown to bring the score gap back down to 35?
My son's soccer league has a much better mercy rule. When a team gets ahead by 5 goals, the other team gets an extra player on the field. If a team gets ahead by 6 goals, the other team gets two extra players on the field . . . and so on. During one game, at one point, the other side had basically their entire team on the field because of the lopsided score. This strikes me as better because each side still gets to play naturally without bizarre and distorted goals, but it attempts to even out the competitive imbalance.