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Some Words of Advice for Coaches, Parents, Administrators and Players

The wrong attitude means you won't get what you want out of youth sports.

OK, OK, QUIET, PLEASE! Let’s break off into four groups.

First group – COACHES. COACHES, PLEASE, HAVE A SEAT IN FRONT OF ME WHERE I CAN KEEP AN EYE ON YOU. This includes: coaches who have egos bigger than their heads; coaches who have little knowledge of the game and coach so that their kid can be the QB or starting pitcher; coaches who coach together until one or the other’s kid misses his July growth spurt; coaches who will rob the local league of its top few players for his “super team”; coaches who actually think that holding tryouts for a group of 9-year-olds means something; coaches who play their buddy’s kid all game — every game — because they can; coaches who believe their own crock of propaganda (or crock of prop); coaches who coach by intimidation or use bad language; and finally… all others.

“Not only can the youth sports systems controlling our children's lives ruin their fun, but also they often deny individual children fair opportunities to reach their full potential through excessive use of elite teams. With the cruelest irony, these systems can rob us of young athletes who, had they been given a fair chance as children, might have been terrific players as high school seniors or as adults.”
-Bob Bigelow

Second group – ALL PARENTS OF PLAYERS PLEASE TAKE A SEAT TO THE RIGHT OF ME. This includes: parents who believe the only chance their kid has at being the best is to play with and against the best; parents who run up and down the sidelines screaming at their kid; parents who argue with other parents on the sidelines; parents who run to argue with a coach immediately at the end of a game; and finally… all others.

“Many times parents look at a performance in terms of the score line to determine what's good or bad. Soccer is like playing the piano, until you master the skill you can't even think in terms of playing on stage. According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70 percent of kids drop out of organized sports by age 13. The No. 1 reason? Pressure from adults.”
- Keith Gabriel, Philly.com

Third group – ALL YOUTH ADMINISTRATORS PLEASE BE SEATED BEHIND ME. This one might pull some of you from the other groups, so go with the one that you feel gives you the most power. Ha-ha, I’m kidding! Wow! I darn near got trampled. This includes: those on youth sports boards for the purpose of furthering their own slimy agenda; self-appointed Gods of a particular organization; those who don’t believe that skimming from the top will affect the rest of the pool over time; those who charge a small fortune (thus eliminating a large group from any chance of participation) for the promise of a shot at superstardom; those who need to run premier teams for 8- or 9-year-olds; those who end their thoughts and comments with PERIOD; and finally… all others.

“Year-round commitment to a single sport and far-flung travel for more and better competition are isolating our best young athletes from their communities and changing the all-around athletic experience that has been at the heart of American sports for generations.”
-Alexander Wolff, "Special Report: The High School Athlete," Sports Illustrated (Nov. 13, 2002)

Fourth group – FINALLY I’D LIKE ALL PLAYERS TO GRAB A SEAT TO THE LEFT OF ME, PLEASE. This includes elite/select and non-elite/select; travel and not-allowed-to-travel; labeled and mislabeled; players who can't handle failure because they've been conditioned to believe they're too good to fail; players who missed out on being labeled as elite/select at 8; players not having fun because they only play one-third of every stinking game; players wanting to quit; and… OH HECK… ALL PLAYERS BE SEATED, PLEASE.

“Youth sports, particularly playoffs and tournament leagues where winning is stressed and more recognized community wide, is now made up of a handful of elite athletes that are overplayed by inexperienced parent coaches, at the expense of the lesser talented. These youth “all-star” leagues have also become a showcase where parents get to display their children, sometimes with tragic results, like a circus act.”
-The Wahey Boys

Alrighty then. All players – stay where you are.

Any adult (includes league administrators, coaches, and parents) falling under the “all others” category please remain seated.

Everyone else – Thank you for attending. Have a great evening.

Ok. Let’s have a conversation about youth sports.

Patrick July 03, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Ron, If you really want to tell me that the quality of a "rec" game is just as good as the quality of a Travel "a" league game, then I don't even know why I'm wasting my time arguing with you. You are right...kids who play on travel teams do get preferential treatment in high school, which makes sense for one big reason reasons. 1. They've got MORE experience against a higher level of competition (and USUALLY (not always, unfortunately) have gotten better coaching), which means that even if they weren't better players when they got picked for the team, they probably will be by 9th grade. It also shows that by playing at a travel level that they are willing to challenge themselves and put in more time and effort then the kid who settles for just showing up once a week for a rec game. The issue is what you have been saying all along...that often times parent's and coaches other interests get in the way of selecting a proper team AND that there's a label/status symbol attached to playing on a travel/elite team. The reason you should push your kid to play on a travel team is to better them as an athlete NOT because it makes YOU or THEM look good. I personally have been on both ends of this problem in the past and just learned to deal with it, and hope that the right people are selected to coach our youth sports. This does not mean that you should prevent your child from trying to play travel sports at a high level...that is only holding them back and promoting mediocrity.
Patrick July 03, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Ron, what do you have to say about "Elite" or "Select" or "Travel" programs in the area, many of which I have been around both as a player and in other roles, that use an independent committee to judge and select teams based on a few tryout dates? No bias involved whatsoever. Is this still an evil thing because, the kids who aren't quite good enough to make the team, actually didn't make the team. Should we hold back the kids who made the team fair and square? Whatever happened to the old school when you got cut from a team, and worked your butt off all off-season to get better. Now people just moan about it being too political, and claim that they were better off not making the team and playing rec. I wasn't a great athlete in my day and got cut from a fair share of teams, sometimes fairly and sometimes not...makes me sick the bitter attitute that people like you have towards the whole situation.
Ron Goralski July 03, 2012 at 05:56 PM
You are missing everything here. So the travel coaches are better than the REC coaches. Really? What about the price? What about Johnny's dad picking the team? Please! What about the preconceived LAX team? Joke! And the leap you are making that they will probably be better by eighth grade even if they aren't now because of the competition? Again. Really? Karen has this NAILED! Politics and "marketing" has just as much to do with which kids make these teams as anything else. And because of that - deserving kids are being left out. And that's just a small piece of all this. Pat - don't let me waste your time then. Not sure where you came up with that but I'm busy as well... so if everything is fine to you, carry on man. There are too many smart parents out there who are frustrated with how many of our leagues are run. Serious, serious issues need to be addressed. This thread has probably run its course. We have different philosophies regarding this. I can live with that.
jeff cohan July 10, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Better yet - There are 4 organizing bodies for youth baseball in most towns. Little League, Babe Ruth, High School and Summer Baseball. In Farmington all have boards or organization structures that conduct annual meetings for all participants to discuss all aspects of the program. Additionally All programs typically list officers who can be reached at any time to answer questions and act as a sounding board. Having been involved in all programs over the years it is obvious that at no level is the program perfect but based on the fact that every single individual connected to the organizing body is a volunteer and not a paid full time operator they all do a terrific job. For you to announce that lots of people have questions and then seek an ad hoc meeting is a diservice to the various boards and organizing volunteers and merely presents an unnecessary attempt to make the continuing statement which is a theme of most of your threads that there is significant disconnect with every organized youth program in town. The better message woould have been to suggest that those with "questions" seek to attend board meetings or individual council with board members to ask questions and voice concerns. While many of your articles have been useful and thought provoking your tendancy to ellivate the conversation to a "holier than thou" moment detracts from your overall message which has been and continues to be well delivered, save this response.
Ron Goralski July 10, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Point very well taken Jeff. Agreed.

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