Oh No! It’s That Time of the Year

This time of the year is especially difficult. Difficult because this is the time of the year when we are faced with the question of where our kids will play in the upcoming season. Ultimately we must do what we think is best for our kids. That seems simple enough right? I wish it were simple but there’s plenty to consider when deciding where you athlete will should play. In this post I will discuss the emotional cost involved with the decision as well as a couple of my primary considerations. The opportunity cost is what has been on my mind most as of late and I’ll address that in the next post so stay tuned.

tumblr_inline_mzr99kvLKG1s2lxogThe youth baseball or softball parent’s dilemma is the difficulty a parent must face when you want to give your child every opportunity to play in high school and beyond but worry about the cost; and by cost I’m not necessarily talking about money even though that is part of the consideration. The cost I am primarily talking about is the emotional cost. The problem is there are many young kids—as young as 5-years-old—out there playing sixty to eighty to a hundred games a year in the ultra-competitive and sometimes unforgiving world of select baseball. A world where a 9-year-old can sit the bench every inning of a tournament because a more skilled guest player was brought in to play their spot. A world where an 8-year-old might be jerked off the field and benched during the middle of an inning because he failed to catch a fly ball or committed the unforgivable sin of backing up the wrong base. I worry about how healthy this environment is, both physically and emotionally. However, I don’t think I’m alone in saying I worry if we are not participating in this competitive youth baseball world we may limiting our athlete’s opportunities down the road.

I’ve always said I’m looking for two things in a team; a healthy learning environment and competitive baseball. It’s difficult to find both the right environment and the right level of competition in a single team. A healthy learning environment is an environment where the kids can have fun “playing” baseball and develop a passion for the game but also a place where kids feel safe to take risks, make mistakes, and fail without the fear of embarrassment or punishment, like when a coach pulls them out of the game in the middle of an inning because they failed to make a play.

The word competitive means different things to different people so let me be clear about what I mean. I think many people in the youth sports community use competitive as a synonym for winning. In a sentence, what I mean by competitive baseball is the highest level of competition where your team still has the chance to win. If you are winning every game or you are losing every game you have not found the right level of play. Still it’s a little more complex than that. It is also an environment that is challenging for the kid and matches their skill level with that of the other the players on their team. By necessity most practices are geared toward the majority in the middle. As a result the players at the top and bottom don’t get as much development as do the majority in the middle. I believe it’s best to avoid playing on a team where your child is on ether extreme.

It’s easy to find one or the other—healthy or competitive—but it’s a challenge to find both in one team. It’s difficult to find both because it’s hard to do. However, hard to do doesn’t mean impossible and I’m just naive enough to believe it’s possible and that’s what I’m going for.

At the end of the day I have to make the decision I believe is best for my child and my family. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. What are you looking for?