I have had this series running through my head for a week, and while there is certainly a lot more to cover and its various facets interest me, it's not that fascinating. It bids fair to dominate another week, and it's just too much. So I will simply list additional points without expanding them into a full argument and have done with it.
In the comments at First Things, I see in retrospect that once the stage was set, a lot of people - perhaps all of us - engaged in fantasies about how kids were affected, devoid of any data. People asserted that kids could and would learn important lessons from the experience of losing 108-3, so it was okay. Others stated that kids would be humiliated and devastated, so it should never happen. Numbers, please? Data? How many are inspired to try harder, how many are damaged? Do we know, are are we just projecting adult ideas onto their heads.
Retrospective anecdotes are not evidence. One (young?) man recalled playing at 16 for a team that got beaten badly and told us how it had changed his approach and all worked out. I mistrust this. Anyone who has ever recalled events with others knows that forgotten information has to be worked in. No, Jeremy, you actually started that extra practicing at 14 after losing a much closer game, though it was intermittent. That game you lost, one star player got into early foul trouble and the other was injured. You did work harder for a few months, but the big difference was that the next year you had a better coach. Or oppositely, No, you were moody and tough to coach the rest of the season. The next year you seemed to get your feet under you, but still lost your temper a lot. The year after that you were the hardest-working, never-say-die kid I coached in years. If it was that game that taught you that lesson, it took a long time. Not to say that the other person's memory is correct, either. But memory puts things into neater packages than were apparent at the time.
Also, anecdotes are about you. Even if you did learn to be a great competitor, what about the four younger kids who quit the game after that season? If we want sports to teach social darwinism, that those kids got weeded out because they weren't mentally tough enough, how are we fitting that into a specifically Christian context?
The conflict in the Church since the age of Constantine arises in miniature form when Christians open (or even teach at) schools, or coach teams - or on into adulthood, become bosses and supervisors, or get elected selectman, or assume any earthly power whatsoever. When you take on the job of training children to take a place in society, you have a responsibility to the society as well as the child. We entrusted you with these children so that they could function in this society. If they are not able to compete, you have failed us all. But some training must be harsh, and some will be damaged. It is no good to say "well, they shouldn't feel that way." Some will. To just write them off as wusses that couldn't cut it, while pointing to the successful individuals, stern of will, doesn't answer. And some will be unable. The coach or the school or the parent may not be at primary fault, but I think that the Christian perspective is to aim for no fault at all. Even quitters and whiners are children of God. And frankly, many who appear to be quitters or whiners really aren't, but only thrust into situations beyond their years. If we are going to be the occasion for some to fail, we should at minimum have a clear idea what is a generally bearable amount of pressure.
And yet, to be rescuing of the least of these, or forgiving of society's enemies when one is in power is to make one's whole people vulnerable. Tribes get wiped out that way. If it's your job to see that the tribe doesn't get wiped out, then you shouldn't take the position if you can't fulfill it. Similarly, on a lesser scale, with school principals, chorus directors, and (gulp) drama coaches.
OTOH, one's team losing by an horrendous margin may not be the humiliation for a child that adults think it is. Kids are usually much more embarrassed by their personal failures in front of the crowd, not the team's. And they pick up on what adults think they should be embarrassed by. Commenting on what a jerk that Adrian Beltre is for making an error and costing his team the game is likely to come to mind when your own little third baseman makes an error that costs his team the game, even if you say only encouraging you'll-get-'em-next-time-big-guy comments. And the groans of the crowd as a game slips away says it all: this really was important to the adults. That the adult puts it in perspective a minute later may be lost on the child.
I guess this is the spot to put in whatever else occurs to you on the topic.