This article recently ran in the Los Angeles Times about a Southern California high school where sports parents seem to feel they can/should influence coaching decisions. It probably happens everywhere.
A couple days ago we told you about a Pop Warner football league in California that was investigating possible embezzlement. Now we hear of a Little League in Indiana looking at the same issue. If you volunteer for a youth league you cannot even consider doing something like this and, if the allegations are true, we hope the culprits are found and prosecuted to the fullest extent.
Feedback we received the other day from a Little League President who ordered CoachDecks which he had just handed out to his managers. He said they all loved the decks and asked if they could have one to give to their coaches. Our handy, little deck of 52 fundamental drills broken into four, color-coded categories is exactly what your coaches and managers need this season since we know they don’t have time for books, manuals or online training sites. They need something they can carry onto the field and use at a moment’s notice while players are getting out of their parents’ cars. Every drill in the deck can be made into a fun and exciting game that kids love so they’ll want to come to every practice.
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We try to bring you these stories whenever we stumble across them in the hopes of raising awareness of this type of activity in youth sports organizations and in case anyone might want to contribute to a good cause. This Pop Warner seems to have some financial issues which may or may not be because of misappropriation of funds. But it also seems like lessons can be learned from mistakes that may have been made within the executive board. We certainly hope the league can get back on track financially and that some of our readers help.
By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck
Recently I came across a Little League website and looked over their rules and guidelines page. This particular league holds tryouts for seven year-olds who want to play “up” in the Machine-Pitch division and for eight year-olds who want to play “up” in Kid-Pitch. This line caught my eye: “All 9 year-olds not drafted into Kid-Pitch will play down in Machine-Pitch.”
Now I’m not one of these guys who thinks every kid should get a trophy all the way through high school. I’ve written several articles about the positive lessons learned through striving to win, competition and through failure. But I couldn’t get one image out of my mind.
That was the face of a little nine year-old who was told that he “didn’t make it,” and that while all of his friends would be moving “up” into the glamorous world of “real” baseball, he was going to have to stay “down” and repeat another year where the balls are pitched by machines.
It is the same with soccer and other sports that have “elite” teams at very young ages where players must be “good enough” to participate. It saddens me to think of how many of these very young kids play in organizations that believe tryouts should begin at the earliest levels or are pushed into a tryout by overzealous parents only to have to endure the sting of rejection and humiliation.
Again, kids have to learn sometime that there will be disappointments. They’ll need to learn the lessons that either through talent or hard work, or both, some succeed and some don’t. But at what age should that happen? It seems like nine might be a little soon. Years ago, Little League International changed their rule and mandated that all 12 year-olds who wanted to play in the highest Little League division, Majors, would be allowed regardless of ability. At the time there were many who complained this would dilute the talent in this division. But a more compassionate way to view it was that it was overly-harsh to have a child go all the way through the Little League process and never have an opportunity to play at the top level, if even only for one year.
I imagine Little League also looked at this as a way to try and reduce attrition. Because it is a fact that nearly every 12 year-old who didn’t make Majors simply quit rather than play in the lower division. I am guessing many of the 9 year-olds in this particular league who are told they must play again in Machine Pitch do the same thing.
There is an epidemic of youth quitting or simply not participating in sports. Numbers are down in nearly every category. More kids are choosing video games instead where they can control what happens, where there is no judgment from adults, where failure is private and unimportant, not public and devastating.
If we want to get more kids playing sports, and if you’re reading this you probably do, shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to be more inclusive, instead of more exclusive? Wouldn’t we be better-served, at least at the youngest ages, to tell everyone we want them to play?
Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org