Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Let's talk Little League

I'm very superstitious.  I had a dream the other night that Pujols was hitting again.  Like an RBI at every at bat.  Home runs more frequently.  It was beautiful; and I think it could be happening.  But, that is between you and me.  Because I'm superstitious.  And I really want the Angels to start winning again.

Can we take a moment to talk about Little League?

A few days ago, I added this photo below to my Baseball Board on Pinterest.  As a volunteer and parent of kids that play in Little League, I feel this advice is essential.  I posted a link on Twitter, and a very good friend responded that her daughters weren't signing up for Little League this year because of the "it's all about winning" attitude of their new league.  I hate hearing that, because more often than not, Little League stops being fun when parents get too involved.

However, being a baseball fan, and very competitive in my own life, there does comes a time when Little League does become all about winning.  How else could the Little League organization begin to prepare their players for high school sports and eventually the major leagues?  I think it's fair to condone this attitude at the 11-12 year old Majors level, and during All Stars.  All Stars should be comprised of the best players from every team.  Not for kids who "should get on the All Stars once before they quit" or for kids who's Dads are coaches or on the board of directors, etc.  The goal in Little League All Stars is the World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  Winning is everything it takes to get there.  And it's not an easy road.

The Little League pledge ends with the words "Win or Lose, I will always do my best."  The best leagues remember that "kids just want to have fun."  Little League has so many wonderful programs; like Challenger, Junior and Senior Leagues for after age 12, and TAD (teaching and development) leagues.  In all that Little League does good, I think it's OK to embrace a "win it all" attitude as well when it come to All Stars.

I think it becomes emotionally difficult to decide when a young baseball player should quit.  If a coach tells you in t-ball that your kid won't cut it - report that coach to the league.  He is not doing his job of teaching fundamentals.  Similarly, if your child starts to be afraid of the ball, can't hit to save his life, and begins to hate the sport as they near the end at age 12, it might be wise to suggest the find something new.  Forcing a child to play baseball because you love the game and you think he's the next Babe Ruth is criminal.

Next year is my son's last official year in Little League.  He's good ballplayer and is keeping up with his best peers.  My husband manages his team, and he's an excellent coach.  We are very fortunate in that respect, and I'm grateful that my son truly loves the game.  Successful brainwashing I suppose.  However, if he were to tell me he didn't want to play anymore, I'd honor his choice at this age.  It would rip my heart out, but I'd do it.  And, I'd still be just as involved with my volunteer work for Little League, because its not just about my son and his future baseball career.

Our Little League season ended last Saturday, and Travel Ball starts up this weekend.  Baseball is our life, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

1 comment:

Timestep said...

S1 was 12 when we pulled her from little league because the majors and minors were more about playing the 'good' players who would help them win rather than instill the love of the game in all kids whether they will move on to Jr. high or high school baseball.

I've never read the little league mission statement, but I'd hate to think that it supports the idea that they are responsible for grooming kids for later play at the expense of the kids who just want a place to play ball.

All-Star and travel teams definitely should hold the missions of being a place for better players. But, I'd love to know where I should send my 11-13 y.o. child to play ball when all they want is to be part of a team during the summer and not have to put up with playing the minimum innings in the outfield.

That is not to say that you have to play them in a position that isn't safe -- I'd never want a coach to play my older daughter at first base - she just isn't capable. But, she is a capable 2nd base player and had finally gotten strong enough to play pitcher just as she reached the age that she was too old to pitch in minors and there is no way a coach in the majors would risk a game by putting her in as pitcher.

I ran into her coach from last year and he admitted that he isn't coaching anymore based on the culture of the league. He just wanted to go out and have fun with the kids and help them find the love of the game, but that razzing he recieved for his loosing record and the critisism for not fielding his strongest players -- all from the other minor league coaches -- left him not wanting to coach. All the parents from his team thought he was the best coach ever.