My first born child is seven years old.  He has played one year of baseball, it was last spring when he was six.  He doesn’t want to play this season.  Why?  Adults have jacked it up!  They have turned GAMES into SPORTS.  According to my son, baseball was “boring and embarrassing” last year.

 

natebaseball

My son Nate!

 

According to Wikipedia, “A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool.”  Games should be all about fun for a six year old!  For five, six, seven, eight, nine year olds, youth sports should be youth games.  They should be fun, and enjoyable!

Youth games should be about the snacks after the games, running the wrong way after a hit, shooting at the wrong basket after a rebound and tackling your own player.  They should be about laughter and sliding when you don’t have to, and putting on eye black just because your idols do it.  They should be about putting too much Big League Chew in your mouth, and not knowing the difference between an out and a hit.

Games should be about learning how to catch, learning how to hit off a tee, the bounce pass, the five yard stop pattern, learning how to spit a sunflower seed, and picking dandelions.  Kids should be caring more about their free icee after the game and what kind of pizza they will have or if they will have a pool party at the end of the season. 

But somewhere we went wrong.  Somewhere adults have jacked it all up.

One game last year, on a Saturday, the other team didn't have enough kids show up. Why, everyone is too busy; AND they weren't having fun.  So, they put some kids from my son's team on the other team.

One game last year, on a Saturday, the other team didn’t have enough kids show up. Why, everyone is too busy; AND they weren’t having fun. So, they put some kids from my son’s team on the other team.

My son’s first year of organized baseball should have been about a game, it should have been fun and energizing, and it should have inspired him to play again.  Instead, it turned it in to a chore, and a bore.

You see, adults turned this great game in to a sport.

I know this problem is not just here in my community, it’s a problem nationwide; we need to take a long, hard look at youth sports in this nation; before it’s too late.  I hope my son returns to baseball one season, but it might be too late; after one season.

Wikipedia says: “Sports are all forms of usually competitive physical activity which, through casual or organized participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing entertainment to participants, and in some cases, spectators.”

This is where adults have jacked it up. They have high jacked youth games and turned them in to youth sports.  Instead of these games being enjoyment, we’ve turned them in to competition, at far too young of an age.

I shared my top two concerns about my son’s experience with a local Little League official.  My two concerns: way too many games and not hitting off of the tee enough.  For three weeks last season, we played three games in a single week!  This was for 5 and 6 year olds, THREE games in a week!  Most high school baseball teams do not play three games in a week during the regular season.

This official told me that “I receive more complaints from parents that feel their child is NOT DOING ENOUGH during the season.”  There we have it: turning a game in to a sport for 5 years olds.  Turning enjoyments in to competition.

I asked my son what this kid was talking about.  He said

I asked my son what this kid was talking about. He said “He just asked my name, and if I liked baseball.”

Most weeks we would have one practice, on Monday, then one game on Tues or Wednesday, and then a game on Saturday too.  Again, three nights at the baseball field; for 5 and 6 year olds.  My son wanted to quit last year during the season.  It was just too much.  But we didn’t let him.  We didn’t want to teach him that it was okay to quit something.

Something interesting I learned last year that I would not have guessed.  About half way through the year, my son said “Dad, we have too many games, I just want to practice.”  I asked him why and he said “Practice is so much fun, I just love being with my friends and practicing; we actually get to do stuff.”  You see, they hit off of the tee most of the time, so there was continuous action.  And the coach did a great job of keeping practices moving along quickly during the 60 minute time frame; it was enjoyable for him.  The games were not.

My second concern was about the league not hitting off of the tee for long enough.  The rule was that each kid would receive three pitches from the coach, and then hit off of the tee if they failed to hit one of those pitches.  Folks, I estimate that 8 out of 10 of these 5-6 year old could NOT hit one of those three pitches.  8 out of 10 kids, at least during the first half of the season, would swing and miss at three pitches, then hit off of the tee. It was BRUTAL.

Most of the team was just swinging at pitches.  These adults forgot that most of these kids were LEARNING how to hit a baseball for the first time ever!  You had kids as tall as their bats are long!  And we think that they are going to be able to hit a pitch being thrown at them?!  Shoot, think about statistics in the Major Leagues.  If you are able to safely hit the ball in to play and get on base just three times out of ten, you are a STUD!

This Little League official told me in an email “The majority of parents will argue that their child has matured and doesn’t need to hit off a tee.”  You see, again, adults have jacked this up.  I don’t know which games these parents are watching!  My son told me one of the reasons he didn’t want to play was because it was “boring and embarrassing.”

Nate has enjoyed basketball more than baseball, and couldn't wait to start playing it again.  The leagues were run very different. One was a game, one was a sport.

Nate has enjoyed basketball more than baseball, and couldn’t wait to start playing it again. The leagues were run very different. One was a game, one was a sport.

It was boring because “you have to wait a long time before they hit the ball,” and “embarrassing when you can’t hit the baseball until the tee.”  Do you know how much fun it would be if the kids actually put the ball in play with every swing?

Do you remember thinking you were king kong when you were able to actually hit the ball every time you got up to the plate?  How much pressure are these 5 and 6 year olds under to hit a pitched ball when they can hardly hit a ball that is stationary on a tee?!

Adults, we need to let our kids be kids. 

We need to bring back games, and remove sports for these kids.  Kindergartners need to be having an enjoyable time, not a competitive time. That time will come soon enough.  For most of us, it will be here before we know it. Time just flies!  We need to protect our kids and let them ENJOY these games while they can.

Competition will come soon enough.  Competition and entertainment through sports will be here before you know it.  Most of your kids will be asked to focus on one sport year round.  They will be asked to spend a lot of money on speed coaches, and hitting coaches and throwing coaches and catching coaches and drinking water from water bottle coaches.  Some of your kids will be forced to specialize to the point their coaches will demand they are not even allowed to play another sport.  I’ve worked with a lot of coaches like this.

Please adults, just let them play games . . . . while they are young enough to!

One of my sons’ friend’s father was dumbfounded last spring when we told him that Nate wasn’t going to play year round baseball.  You see, his kid was playing baseball, basketball and soccer YEAR round.  Yes, a six year old playing three sports year round.  Dad told me “Hey man, I have to get him ready, it’s competitive out there.”  Yes pal, it certainly is . . . .

 

My son was the tallest kid in the league last summer; it sure did make basketball easy!

My son was the tallest kid in the league last summer; it sure did make basketball easy!

 

Chris Fore has been a high school football coach for 13 years, and Athletic Director for 6.   He has a Masters’ degree in Athletic Administration, and is a Certified Athletic Administrator by the only national body that certifies Athletic Directors, the NIAAA.  He is the author of Building Championship-Caliber Football Programs, and has had several articles featured in national publications. 

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