Sometimes I speak my sports mind.
Sometimes I tell people the “truth” on sports as I see it.
Sometimes this gets me in trouble.
Recently, I was asked at our youth baseball association meeting if I was excited as a former high school level coach to see all these local kids playing youth club baseball. I thought for a moment, looked at the floor trying to think of a politically correct way to answer this question.
I couldn’t—so I spoke the sports truth, “Yes…and NO!”
“Yes” because it’s great to see kids playing baseball, but “NO!” because I don’t think you should ever approach youth baseball for the purpose of someday having your dozen or so kids all becoming high school stars.
Eyes widened. Jaws fell open. I quickly tried to elaborate that, as I high school level coach, I’d prefer to see kids enter the high school program armed primarily with a love for the sport and the ability to throw and catch. There will be attrition. Even in the best case scenario, only about half of those dozen kids who play on a youth team will probably still be playing in their later high school days.
Kids will change, their bodies will grow and shift by the time they reach high school. If a kid has that love and passion for the game, I can teach them (or re-teach them) as they enter the high school program and mold them into the players best suited for their skill set. These kids will put the hours of hard work needed to be a solid player. They will use their love of the game to push through tough times and tough situations to get better every day.
That is what I want to see out of a youth sports program. Help kids love the sport, teach them the basic fundamentals of the sport, and give them the basic skills tool set to be successful. All the other pieces of the puzzle will fall into place with hard work and repetition.
Youth sports are not a minor league for high schools. The two bottom things on the list of priorities for a youth sports program are the emphasis on winning above development and a philosophy of making future high school stars. Most of the problems that grow out of youth sports are rooted in these two negative prioritizations. The “burnout” problem so often discussed as a major problem with youth sports most often grows out of these two philosophical approaches.
Youth sports exist to teach kids the fundamentals of a sport. Youth sports programs should teach the kids how to play the game, teach kids about the value of teamwork and the value of competition.
Above all else, youth sports need to teach kids to enjoy the sport and the opportunity to play.
Play hard and have fun!