Do you want to be the 8 year old with the best curve ball and the most trophies, or the 18-year-old with the healthiest arm and a genuine passion for baseball?
Travel and Club Ball can be great, especially for the elite player who needs the challenge. But there are some issues seeping into this culture that scare the cinnamon toast crunch out of me...
1) KIDS CAN’T PLAY OTHER SPORTS BECAUSE “IF YOU DON’T PLAY YEAR ROUND, YOU CAN’T PLAY ON OUR TEAM”: I had a very talented 7 year old tell me he experienced this, and it REALLY bothered him. Why? Because he loves soccer, and basketball, and just BEING A KID.
Mike Trout was an extremely coachable outfielder in minor-league baseball because he was such a good basketball player in high school. Jackie Robinson stole so many bases because he was on the track team at UCLA.
The TCU Baseball Coach Jim Schlossnagle was recently quoted, “The youth baseball player today has never been more talented, and never been less skilled.” Why is that? Because multiple sport athletes are more skilled. Since today’s baseball players weren’t able to learn the drop-back step during football or basketball practice, their motor skills are immature. They can’t bust out that tool from their tool pouch when a college coach asks them to take a good angle on a fly ball or a grounder.
2) TOO MANY MEANINGLESS GAMES: A 9 year old pitches 6 innings Saturday morning. They catch Game 2 that afternoon. They play shortstop for all 3 games Sunday. They have Tommy John surgery Monday.
“It was never important for him to dominate a Fourth of July tournament when he was 13 or 14 years old. If it didn’t fit into the year-round throwing program, then he skipped it. It was all about the big picture and making him the best he could be at age 18.” Zac Doan, Gerritt Cole’s Youth Coach.
There is so much emphasis put on high leverage games. Mentally and physically. Imagine a culture where the practice took precedent over the game.
3) THAT BURNOUT THING IS REAL: Some of the best players I’ve ever seen in little league baseball had no desire to play past high school. They were forced into college when they were 6 years old. When they got to college, they wanted to be a kid.
Let’s face it: We live in an elite culture of NEEDING to be on the best team, NEEDING the best equipment, and NEEDING that college scholarship. But who is doing the needing? The player or the parent?
So… what do we do?
WE FIX IT. We play in less tournaments, and focus more on skill development and the big picture. We let our kids play multiple sports because that’s what College Coaches, Professional Managers, and Professional Players are telling us to do. We listen to Christian Yelich when he questions the idea of a 9 year old being pressured to win a meaningless game.
We Pay More Attention to the BIG PICTURE.
That’s how we make this TRAVEL BALL thing better.