What was once regarded as “America’s past-time” has turned into a soul-crushing sport for today’s boys.
Maybe it was “America’s past-time” decades ago when school-aged boys would gather in an empty field, pick teams and just play baseball much like the hit movie “The Sandlot.” What I wouldn’t give for my own 9-year-old to have that type of baseball experience.
But like most other sports these days, it’s not about just playing the game, it’s all about winning 100 percent of the time and that mindset tends to fall on the coaches.
And while I agree that winning is important – especially at the high school, college, minor league and major league levels – is it really that important when the kids are 9 years old and playing recreational baseball?
The Lorain County Hot Stove League my 9-year-old plays for is a “participation league.” And it’s “parent league” – The Ohio Hot Stove Baseball League encourages “players of all abilities.” Hot Stove was first conceived by sports editor Karl Artman, of Selma, Ala. in the early 1930s. His original idea was to form fun clubs where the members could swap ideas and discuss organized baseball in all its phases. Unfortunately, Artman passed away before his ideas had a chance to develop.
I’m not sure when the detail about “having fun” vanished, but seeing young boys with near tears in their eyes and disappointed faces in the dugout while they sit the bench isn’t my idea of fun. Hearing the young boys who don’t play an entire game like their peers beg and plead with their coach to play the field, only to be told “Maybe later” or “We’ll see” isn’t part of the league’s mission statement either.
The concept of my son’s league is to play on a rotation basis. Meaning, you rotate players in and out of play time. That way, in my opinion, when a boy has to sit the bench, he knows it’s only for an inning or two … not four consecutive innings which to a 9-year-old is a lifetime. And, if the coach adheres to the “rotation” rule, sitting the bench would not be seen as a punishment. A
s if sitting the bench isn’t hard enough, the seemingly better players on the team begin to notice their “spot” on the team and become entitled and perceive themselves as God’s gift to baseball.
How are baseball parents supposed to explain to their average baseball player son why he didn’t get to play more than two innings when other players exuding unsportsmanlike attitudes play inning after inning?
What is that teaching our sons? That you can have a fit and then instead of sitting the bench and taking a “time out” you are “rewarded” by being allowed to play the field while the average player would give anything to see the baseball diamond?
How does an adult morally crush a kid’s spirit?
I hate seeing kids on the outside looking in. It drains their psyche whether they can see it or not. They are now “damaged” goods in their own heads while the “chosen ones” continue to act high and mighty.
Today’s youth take it all in. Wherever they go, whatever they do, they understand what is happening in the world around them. Don’t think for a second they are oblivious. Being a parent of a child athlete is tough.
We encourage our children to “go out for the team” and cringe when they only “suit up” and spend most of their time in the dugout.
My dad coached basketball for 25 years. He allowed every player “play time.” And, when his team was ahead, instead of running up the score, he allowed for his “second string” to hit the court. It was his way of allowing them to show him what they had learned at practice.
Sports isn’t like that anymore.
Elementary-aged boys are still trying to figure out where they belong, but when coaches, who should otherwise be role models, cater to only a select few, what is that accomplishing?
Nothing. It accomplishes nothing except creating a mindset that that player is unworthy. And parents are left picking up the pieces of their crushed souls.
Melissa Linebrink is an award-winning blogger from Ohio. Follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ParenthoodthenewCrazyTrain!