Most youth sports leagues are organized by age; U-8, U-10, U-12, etc. Some have argued that it’s actually better to organize leagues by size (so you don’t have a 10 year old boy who weighs 70 pounds and a 10 year old boy who weighs 85 playing tackle football against each other), or by talent skill so that players who have been playing for years are competing against similarly talented players, while those new to the game get the playing time and coaching they need to develop their skills. Hopefully most leagues focus on randomly assigning players to keep the talent pool spread out across all the teams equally (and when a league doesn’t it’s very obvious very quickly), but not every league takes that approach.
Here is an email we got from a concerned baseball dad;
We have an issue in our local Little League where at the Bantam level one team was allowed to hand pick their players, while the rest were randomly assigned.
The guy who runs the league says it’s not an issue since at this level it isn’t about winning and losing, it’s about skills development.
Two of the board members are members of the organization that sponsor the team, one of whom is the coach.
Another board member’s kids are on the team.
When I am in the dugout during these games, the kids are clearly unhappy with the disparity in talent levels. During the last game a kid commented “I didn’t want to come today, this team always kills us, but my mom made me.”
The talent level is clearly lopsided, with this team having kids who are clearly very “into” baseball, while ours has mostly kids who just want to play for fun. The issue that arises from a “skills development” standpoint is that while there team will get every kid up twice in a game, and most 3 times, our line-up barely churns once since their players are so good in the field, and our players struggle batting.
It’s hard as a parent to watch your kid stand in the field as balls whiz by them (some of the kids played at the minors level in Fall-ball, but by age is allowed to play Bantam) hit by kids who are head and shoulders above your team, and then only get to bat once striking out on 3 pitches.
This situation is creating an environment where I fear my child (and others on the team) will simply opt out next year, not having enjoyed this one. I know other parents feel the same way.
My dilemma is that the person who runs the league is truly a stand-up guy, and I have no doubt that he didn’t intend (nor does he fully comprehend the unintended consequences) to create this situation. But he stands by his decision, and knowing that this could happen again bothers me a great deal.
I know friends who’s kids play on the same travel team like to stick together, but this seems to fly in the face of the spirit of youth athletics. Imagine the friends these kids didn’t make because they were put on a team with the same kids they always play with. And imagine the kids who won’t meet next year when some of the kids and parents on a team that was the “have-not” decide to not participate
If your child has ever been on the team that knows they are about to get blown out of the water you are probably familiar with that sinking feeling. It puts players in a bad mood before they ever get on the field because they think they don’t stand a chance. If you’re only getting to bat once or twice the entire game and the only thing saving you is the maximum run rule where is the fun in that? Not that every team is going to win every game, and learning how to lose is certainly a life lesson kids need to get a hand on, but constantly getting demolished on the field sucks all the joy out of youth sports.