Today was opening day for the local little league and my daughter, Elodie, is playing on a t-ball team with other children aged four and five. The day started off great as there was a parade that traveled all through the town ending at the ball fields. Following the parade, we had an opening ceremony that energized the crowd and kids as they prepared for their first game of the season. What a great opportunity and experience for the kids. Hundred’s of people in the town welcomed the kids and cheered them on. The kids in the truck that I was riding with had ear to ear grins on their little faces. This joy and excitement was the perfect start to creating a memorable experience with regards to the game of baseball.
This is where the experience then began to take a turn. After waiting for over 45 minutes past the game start time to get our team and individual pictures taken, it was finally game time. If you have ever waited with a five year old for anything, they become impatient rather quickly as they have a limited attention span. We had ten children on the team that were five years old or younger.
For the first half inning our team was in the field.
Over the course of our time in the field throughout the game, numerous observations were made:
- With participants aged four and five they want to be involved in every single play. The ratio of one ball to eight to ten kids fielding the ball made this type of involvement impossible. Excitement for one child was disappointment for all of the other fielders followed each time the ball was put into play.
- The older/bigger kids often got the ball much more than anybody else. When they did not get the ball, they were told to let the other kids take a turn.
- The total number of touches while fielding a ball were between one and three per kid for the entire game.
- The pace of the activity is super slow. So many kids are left to standing around waiting for the hitting team to organize as each player bats per inning.
- Numerous “coach” helpers for the team increased the likelihood of the game looking more like baseball as the kids would have a better idea of where to go or what to do after hitting or picking up the baseball.
Upon each member of the other team batting, our team was able to hit. Observations about this portion of the activity follow:
- Speeding up the game must happen to increase greater levels of fun and enjoyment. Using multiple balls would allow this to happen where a helper at first base collects the ball from the player at the base and puts it in a bucket while the helper at home plate simply puts a new ball on the tee. These type of timesaving activities would increase the pace of the game.
- Having helpers at each base enabled the opportunity to create more excitement for the kids who are running the bases. Unfortunately, we still had more than five participants waiting at the dugout to participate during each at bat.
My big question is with the limited number of opportunities to be involved, how is a positive experience being created? With the kids being four or five years old and very impressionable, the only focus should be on creating an experience where they have so much fun they either do not want to leave or cannot wait to come back. The kids need to have increased involvement with a lot less down time. The experience that is created now will determine the future of the sport in each of these kids’ lives. It is very easy to see why baseball participation is dropping with the youth throughout America.
Could baseball be reinvented for children this age to make it more exciting and developmentally appropriate?
In my next post, I will talk about my observations and how we can create better experiences with some simple game modifications. If modifications do not happen, baseball will most definitely continue to lose participation numbers for youth baseball leagues which in turn would limit the number of future viewers of Major League Baseball.
Thanks for taking part in the EducatedCoaches.com Blog and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we can make youth baseball a more fun and exciting activity for our youngest players.