We spent a full weekend at the baseball diamonds. I do love baseball, but had a sour taste in my mouth by the time we finished. David and Cameron both play on traveling tournament teams. I won’t say who plays for which one, but here’s a quick rundown of what went on during each tournament.
One tournament team had great success, earning a berth in the state tournament later this summer. That team’s coaches, in a deviation from the way most teams in the age division are managed, decided to play the same players in the same positions every game, while rotating the same four players (who typically only saw two innings of play during a six inning game) in and out of right and left field for five straight games. The coaches’ kids were part of the infield crew who never spent any time on the bench. Not even when the team was ahead by nine runs. Even pitchers weren’t sat down for an inning after they were taken out, even though they had a five game weekend, playing in intense sun. Naturally by the time they played the championship game, the infield was spent, making errors all over the place. Still there were no substitutions.
My son was one of the four benched players. After yesterday’s two games when we finally got home, he was in tears. In his regular league he is treated as a valued player, and although there is a greater emphasis on winning on a tournament team, one would think that if you are good enough to try out and be selected to play, that you’d have an opportunity to…well, play. So the second place finish was bittersweet in that it’s difficult to feel like you are part of the team when you barely have the chance to contribute.
The other tournament team started out well, but fizzled out their last three games, ending up with a fourth place finish. The coaches for this team move kids around in different positions, typically each player has maybe three areas where they typically play. No one is left out, everyone takes their turn on the bench, everyone is involved, win or lose, good and bad. On this team my kid is probably one of the stronger players, but the team as a whole doesn’t seem to always gel. The ball gets thrown around a lot, they looked a little sluggish today. Yet they are all supportive of each other on the field. My son is upset, though, that they haven’t qualified for a state tournament yet, and doesn’t think they will. He just wants to be a part of a winning team.
So each kid essentially has what the other wants. Personally, I think that at their ages, getting time in the game is what is important, and is why they’re out there to begin with. So if given the opportunity to choose, I’d say screw the team who wants to win at all costs while alienating kids, and put me on the team where we actually play as a team, where everyone has a chance to either shine or take some lumps, even if that means not always finishing on top.
I’m curious what others think. I venture to say most people feel like I do, and it’s a handful of parent coaches like the ones on the first team I described who basically ruin it for everyone else. Vote in my quick little anonymous and unscientific poll so I can see if I’m right. Feel free to comment too, I’d especially like to hear from anyone who has coached youth sports.
© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012