Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

March 26, 2007

Would they pay if they knew they wouldn’t play?

Filed under: cultural values, sports — texased @ 8:07 pm

Baseball season has started (which has cut into my blogging time) and once again I get to see up close and personal what coaches and parents will do to win. My biggest gripe is the minimum play rules. In Little League, you only have to play a kid for six consecutive outs or one at bat. That’s not a lot and if you’re not one of the better players you’re going to spend your playing time in right field. And the board members wonder why more and more kids drop out each year?

But the interesting part is that most parents aren’t aware of the rules. Usually, they just associate the poor playing experience with a specific coach and drop out without realizing the coach was following the rules. I’ve often suggested that the parents should be informed about the rules at registration time. How many of them would be willing to fork over $95 knowing their children may only go up to bat once a game?

Not suprisingly, no one has rushed out to implement my suggestion. Even though this is supposed to be about kids learning to play baseball and learning to love the sport so that one day they will sign up their kids to play baseball, no one wants to give up the competitive edge of being able to relagate the less developed players to right field. Coaches don’t have to worry about teaching all the kids how to play and can spend more time polishing their own kids’ skills so that they can make the all-stars. As the kids grow older, they justify not playing certain kids in the infield because it would be “dangerous” for them since they aren’t likely to field the ball which is because no one has ever bother to teach them in the first place. So every year, the worst players drop out which makes the players who were slightly better than them the worst players for the next year who will drop out and so on and so on until you go from eight t-ball teams to two juniors teams.

Nonetheless, the coaches and board members would much rather bemoan the lack of “talent” than face the fact that they themselves have created the situation. And year after year, they take the parents money without explaining that just because everyone pays the same amount doesn’t mean the kids get to play the same amount.



  1. As a Little League coach myself, I can understand your frustration. I try to make it a point to make sure all players get equal playing time, both in the field and at bat. On the other hand, I take exception to your presumption that it is the coaches and board members responsibility for the lack of playing skills in some kids, and/or why kids drop out. This is akin to blaming schoolteachers and administrators for failings in the educational system.

    Most people realize that two basic elements of learning any skill are 1)proper instruction and 2)practice. Coaches can certainly teach kids the basics of fielding, throwing, or hitting a ball, but ultimately, to even reach a minimum level of competence requires thousands of repetitions outside the normal practice sessions. There is simply not enough practice sessions for a coach to make any significant improvement in the basic skill levels of an individual in the typical 8 week Little League season. Parental involvement with their kids at home can make a difference. I have found that my least skilled players are the ones who often miss the most practices (no fault of their own), have parents who just drop them off and leave, or simply have no interest in the game. The first two situations are indicative of a lack of parental interest. The last may be indicative of a perhaps an overzealous parent forcing their kids to play “for the experience”.

    You’re correct in stating that maybe parents would think twice about plunking down $95 if they knew their kid would only go up to bat once a game. At the same time, why would any parent want to pay for their kid to play a game that either they have no interest in or their kids have no interest in. If you correlate it to playing an instrument, why take lessons if your not going to practice at home? Kids who have an interest and a desire to play will improve … with practice. The practice needs to be done at home. If the kids don’t have a play partner such as a friend, older brother, or sister to help them along, then the parents should step in to fill the void.

    Comment by Jim Hagan — April 13, 2007 @ 12:46 pm

  2. I won’t argue with you about practicing even though I continue to take my son to piano when he rarely practices (we have an incredibly understanding teacher 😉

    What I’m getting at is there is a significant number of kids who are average, funny how that works out. And if you happen to be in the bottom of that average range, you get a lot less playing time and what you do get is in right field. Too many coaches are more interested in winning than in letting kids play positions that they aren’t very good at because they don’t have experience playing them. And so the cycle begins.

    Too many average kids only play outfield in the lower ages where they never see a ball, get bored, and quit. You can make the argument that if they would only practice more, they would get better and be able to play shortstop but too often that is used as an excuse for not giving players a chance at a position. I can’t tell you how many parents have told my husband that their kids loved playing for him, that they were ready to quit baseball until they got on his team. Too often yelling at a kid is considered coaching rather than actually showing them how to do something correctly. Too often, the kid has been labeled as a certain type of player and even if he does improve, he’ll never be given the opportunity to play certain positions.

    I think there is another issue that factors into this, the number of games played. Once the season starts, teams rarely practice since they are playing two and sometimes three games a week. Even if they have time to practice, they don’t have a place to practice since the fields are being used for games. When I asked why they have so many games with little practice I get, “parents want games” or “they learn by being in the field.” Yet for some reason, high school teams practice every day instead of playing only games.

    So by the time they’re fourteen, the only kids left playing are the ones who have only played infield in the lower leagues and saw that outfield was punishment or for those who weren’t as good. Now these kids grumble when they have to play outfield and the coaches complain when they don’t do it correctly. When has any of them been taught to play outfield?

    All I’m saying is that if leagues want to stop shrinking, they might want to select coaches based on the number of kids who returned to play the next year rather than only on a winning record. (That is, if they actually have the luxury of choosing coaches.)

    Comment by texased — April 17, 2007 @ 10:05 am

  3. I have dealt with this same situation for the last five seasons and this season is shaping up to be no different. I tried to talk to the coach of my son’s team last night about “equality” and I kept getting the typical canned answers of, “you’re no different than all the other parents who want their kid to play more”, or my favorite…. “it’s the team dynamic”.

    The team dynamic, as he explained to me, is that third year players earned the right to play every inning of every game. Second year players earned the right to play at least four innings. First year players will be limited to the stated rule of three defensive outs and at least one at bat.

    Last night I attended a game. My son, (a first year player), got the start because his platoon partner showed up 5 minutes until game time. My son proceded to play his six defensive outs and had his one at bat which was the last out of the top of the third inning. The coach then set his platoon partner in to play the final four defensive innings as my son sat and watched the rest of the game in the corner of the dugout.

    By Little League rule, this was appropriate usage of the player and parents reading this might be agree with the coach when he said “I am only bringing this up because he is my kid”, but I’d like to add one more relevant point to this story. Only ten kids showed up for the game. Ten kids and only two had to share playing time for a team who is now 0-4 and struck and of their 16 outs, 13 came strikeouts, my son was one of the 13). Ten kids. Thist bears repeating for the people who stand by the Little League minimum play rule. What did these two 11/12 year old boys do (or not do), to not get equal paying time than the other kids? Did they not pay the same amount of money than the other kids?

    I heard the argument from the coach and his assistant, “When my kids played, they hade to sit too”, but to that I say when does it end? Why do we,(parents), allow this to go on? Just because my electric bill was $342 last month does not mean it has to be every month does it?

    I fought on with my argument but was pushed back again with the the “team dynamic” speach and was also told that interupted to much as others were talking. I was merely just trying to avoid more of the canned answers, but decided if I was to be able to express myself anymore, I should listen to more of the team dynamic speech. So, the coach continued his explanation of the team dynamic by addid that the coach considers the pitcher, second base, shortstop and center filed as interchangeble. The players playing these positions can substitute each with other with others playing these positions. If the pitcher needs to come out, they can be moved to CF while the centerfielder will move to shortstop and the shortstop will be the new pitcher. The same works with the corner positions of third base and 1b. Interchangeble he says. If the 1b was needed to be the new pitcher, the centerfielder could move in to play first base while the exiting pitcher becomes the new pitcher. Interchangeble.

    The catcher was described to me as “a dirty work” position. “No one wants to play that position”, he said. I have observbed that the catcher on this team subs in with the other “interchangeble” postions, just not leftfield or right field.

    Did I forget the left field and right field? This is were the explanation got me exited. The coach told me that leftfield and right field were where the players who didin’t “fit into any of the other categories” played. I will let you formulate your own ide on what he meant by that answer. These positions are also where my son plays his six defensive outs and one at bat, Little League rule states. It also states that the six defensive outs do not have to be consecutive.

    There are a minimum of four of my sons teamates that have yet to sit on the bench at leat one defensive inning in the four games they have played this season. That’s a possible 24 defensive innings. The number is probably higher, but I want my facts to be solid. In that same four game span, my son has played nine (9) defensive innings. The coach pointed out to me that he did play my son for nine defensive outs one game. I guess I should be happy that he doesn’t stick to the must play rule 100% of the time right? I would be happy, but the fact remains that because my son got to play an extra defensive inning mean that one of the othe players “who do not fit into any of those categories”, had to give up some of there defensive innings?

    Only ten players showed up for the game last night and a player, (who yes, happens to be my son), and the coach went out of his way to make sure he played the madatory minumum of six defensive outs. (He does have the authority to play a player more). Way to go coach. Way to look out for the kids.

    This is the same coach who told me my son was only to bat righthanded and that if my son did not start listening, his playing time would be diminished. I can’t figure how that would be done since he is already playing my son as little as Little League law mandates. My son appriciated the advice though.

    Glad I paid the $30 to join, the $35 in fundraiser, (mandatory it seemed)and another $30-$40 for a team jacket. Oh, I must not forget the part when you told the parents it is there responsibility to work the concession stand. Tell you what… You can sign me up for six defensive outs and I’ll even waive the fees.

    Comment by Keith Sheeley — May 1, 2007 @ 2:26 pm

  4. I have a ten year old son that is in his second year playing baseball. We practice all day every Saturday. I just left a game and my son did not even get to bat one time. I asked the coach about this and the statement was that he had to play his top 11 players. If they would of made it to the 6 inning, he might of gotten to play. We show up for every practice and every game. His son plays every inning. What do I tell my son. He watched all of his friends play while he just sat on the bench the whole time. Coach the only thing that I ask is to realize that these children that you are teaching are our future and have feeling and carry their childhood into their adulthood. Please remimber that their is more children out their besides your own and their feelings matter just as much.

    Comment by Leigh Sirmans — May 22, 2007 @ 9:19 pm

  5. In my town, (near Boston) our youth baseball organization is no longer associated with Little League Baseball of America, and the playing time rule is the MAIN reason. At the AAA level (mostly 11-year olds) and below, the batting order is continuous, containing all players present at the game, and beginning where it ended the previous game. At the Majors level, the batting order includes all the players, but starts at the top of the order every game, and can be changed from game to game. But in all cases, all the kids are usually assured of at least two at bats. We also ensure that each player gets to play a minimum of three innings in the field.

    While there are a lot of things that I don’t like or agree with about our town’s yourh baseball, I think this is one instance where they’ve gotten it right. It adds more enjoyment for the kids at the lower end of the talent range, and keeps our organization from losing as many kids from dropping out due to a severe lack of playing time. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our high school baseball team is consistently one of the best in the state.

    My kids also play in the travel baseball league, which utilizes the LLBA playing time rules, and I can tell you that those games are much different to watch. My oldest son is one of the kids who plays almost every inning (just to note, I’ve never been a coach on one of his travel teams), and he’s even commented to me on how unfair the playing time situation is. Mature on his part, but what an indictment of the situation, when a 12-year old can see what so many coaches can’t (or won’t)

    These coaches need to remember that these games are not organized for them. They are for the kids – all the kids. I have been a youth baseball coach for the last five years, and I had my fair share of success with putting kids in all the positions where they could safely play. (I did restrict Catcher and 1st base after the kids were about 10) I always felt it was my responsibility to teach all the kids how to play the positions, even if they weren’t the best. We lost some games we could have won, if we played the best kids only in the infield, but I felt that I had a successful season if all the kids signed up to play the next year. That meant they had fun and wanted to keep doing it. It sounds like I’m in the minority though. (Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I was never chosen to be a travel team coach…)

    Comment by MassBaseballDad — June 14, 2007 @ 9:06 am

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