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About the Blog
The name of the blog, Better Youth Baseball, begs the question what do you mean by better? Primarily “better youth baseball” manifests itself in two ways: fun and development. If the players are continually improving, and having plenty of fun in the process, then you are in a good place.
Development + Fun = Better Youth Baseball (& wins)
When I look around the youth sports culture today there seems to be an over emphasis on winning. Winning in and of itself is not bad. I prefer winning over losing, however, I prefer player development over winning. Here are just a few examples of how an over emphasis on winning can hurt player development.
Coaches don’t let the athletes make decisions during the game; every time the ball finds a glove a coach is barking out instruction and telling the players exactly what to do and which base to throw to. Another thing that is far too common is many athletes do not get to experiment and experience time at different positions which boost his or her understanding of the game. Not only are athletes restricted from playing different positions but if they do have an interest in switch hitting they may be discouraged from trying it as well. There have been times when my son was discouraged from switch hitting. Obviously he is a better hitter from his natural side, the right side, and the increased chance of making an out from the left side was enough to keep coaches from letting him develop. The ability to hit from both sides of the plate is far more valuable than a win at this level. In better youth baseball winning is important but it takes a back seat to development.
The athletes also prefer winning over losing but not at the expense of fun. In recent years there have been a number of studies about why kids play youth sports and they all agree on one thing. They all say the number one reason kids, and teens alike, play youth sports is to have fun. Not surprisingly, as the youth sports culture gets more serious about winning and moves further away from fun kids are quitting at alarming rates. Studies show that two out of three kids quit youth sports by age ten and that number goes up to three out of four by the age of thirteen. This should come as no surprise. It makes perfect sense when you put yourself in the kid’s shoes. The day I go into my day job and my boss informs me that the company has decided to take away or severely decrease my primary reason for working there, my paycheck, is the day I collect my things and walk out.
I know some will say that winning is fun, and yes winning can be fun but that’s not to say that winning is always fun. I have seen games when the parents and coaches got their precious win at the expense of the fun. A win does not negate the criticisms and publicly humiliation an athlete received over an error. When there is too much pressure to win it diminishes the experience. Instead of joy at the end of a win the emotion present is relief.
Like I mentioned before, winning is not bad. Winning is a great thing and learning how to compete and win is a valuable lesson. However, winning by itself is just not enough especially if it’s the primary goal and comes at the expense of what should be the two primary objectives: fun and development. Too much focus on winning can easily and adversely affect these two more important things. It’s hard to have both development and fun; however, in my mind it’s the only way and in the long run it will produce more of those beloved wins.