Change · Coach Matt · Coaching · Development · Education · Leadership · Success · Youth Sports

Baseball – State of the Game Part II

As stated in other posts here on EducatedCoaches.com, the experiences we create for young participants are vital to developing a lasting love for the game. It is my observation of the game of baseball that the experiences that are currently being created at an early age are nowhere near the best possible opportunities for falling in love with the game. Not changing the actual game of baseball but slightly altering the rules will create more exciting and interesting experiences for developing baseball players.

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What we do now does not create love for the game

The biggest thing that I have noticed is that what is being done on the field is the same thing that the coaches and administrative leaders experienced when they were a kid. Nothing in the game of baseball has changed….and why would it? The best coaches’ work with the more elite levels (college, professional) leaving parents who work day jobs to coach our children and create forever lasting positive experiences. Occasionally a young player will get lucky and have a quality experience but that is few and far between. If you work 40 plus hours per week in a job completely unrelated to coaching, when do you have time to develop the optimal plan for creating joyous experiences? And here lies the answer to the question as to why things have never changed – A lack of education as well as time to commit to creating passion and a forever love of the game.

Knowing that changing this pattern is virtually impossible, creating a better curriculum that parent coaches can follow is the best solution. Much like US Youth Soccer has done where field sizes and player to ball ratios have been reduced, baseball can easily mirror some of these same ideas. Do we need 10 players in the field or at bat who receive very few opportunities? What if we reduced the size of the field? What if we even played in a space that wasn’t a baseball field? We can easily set up a smaller diamond anywhere. Reducing the number of players on a field to a 5 vs 5 or lower number ensures greater opportunities to field the ball. It also guarantees more at bats.

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Numerous players – One ball – Why?

In soccer the different age groups also play with different size balls. Currently in baseball there are very few variations except for using a tee at the earliest ages to participate in the game. Also, the ball is slightly softer (Would still hurt if it hit you, especially a 5 year old who cannot catch) in T-Ball. What if the bats we used were bigger and the balls were too? The success rate of hitting this ball would increase ultimately creating a better experience. If you’re worried about skill development at this age we are focusing on the wrong things. Love of the game and wanting to come back to the next practice are the main focuses. We can still create similarities that with appropriate design can easily mesh with the next stage of the game. This is the same model that soccer has followed for years. It is time for baseball to catch up or this game will no longer be the national pastime if it even is now.

In my next post I will discuss my observations of the older age groups (coach pitch and little league) and how the experiences we created and continue to create are having a negative effect on this game.

Thanks for taking part in the EducatedCoaches.com blog.  With change even when it is for the better comes resistance. Let’s give the next generation the greatest opportunity to enjoy sports in a fun and pressure free environment focused upon developing skills and a passion for participation. Coaches and parents that gain an education as to the best developmental practices will lead the next generation of athletes to greater successes.  NEVER STOP LEARNING!!! 

Thanks for taking part in the blog and have an amazing day!!!

Coach Matt

 

3 thoughts on “Baseball – State of the Game Part II

  1. Great post! I assume you’re related to Brad, whom I know from his time in Jesup… he shared this. Though my parenting and coaching days are over, ’tis good to see someone’s trying to make things better in rec ball! Gonna try to share this with our Rec guy…

  2. Dear Coach: I really enjoy these blogs. We don’t know each other, but let me tell you something intimate about myself. My will mandates that my family have me cremated and my ashes spread over Partington Park in Windsor, Ontario. Why, and why mention that htere? Because Partington Park represents my happiest, carefree days, and where my passion for baseball was instilled in me. Sandlot baseball. No uniforms. No coaches. No umpires. Different rules every day. Sometimes, pitchers mound was out. Some days, you had to “pick” your field, and if you hit the ball to the other side, you were out. Some days, there were three bases, other days there were two. Some days, you were only allowed one out per inning while the other team got two. Some of those days, trees were bases. Some days, if a runner chose to score, hitting the school shed with the thrown ball before he touched home plate constituted him to be out. We played a continuous game, all day long. If we had a majority of younger kids playing at any given time, the rules changed as well. Sometimes, when we didn’t have enough, we’d use a painted square on the school wall that represented the strike zone. My passion for baseball burned so brightly then that I lost the upper quarter of my right middle finger (on my throwing hand) because the chain came off my bike while riding to Partington Park. I was so eager to get there I just couldn’t take the time to get off my banana-seated, high handle-barred bike, so I reached down and tried to life the chain back into place. Next thing you know, my middle finger got wedged between the chain and sprocket and went all the way around. The loss gave me a really ugly end of finger, but a knuckle ball like nobody else could throw. My point, other than a therapeutic diatribe bringing me back almost a half-century is to demonstrate that we over-organized our kids today, and if we just give them the opportunity to figure out baseball on their own, let them create their own rules, let them resolve conflicts on their own, let them argue over safes and outs and balls and strikes, we will have served them, and the game we love, very well. At the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame where I was president/CEO for a decade, when we built our third diamond on our 32-acre complex, I designated it for Sandlot ball only. I had a sign installed that read “NO ADULTS ALLOWED”, and I always made sure that an adequate set of bats, balls and bases were present. It was a beautiful thing … until our insurance company mandated that I remove the sign. The landscape of baseball has changed, and in many ways for the better, but we need to remind ourselves that we as adults can nurture a passion, but that only the kids can initiate it. We can create environments where that passion can be lit, but do we have the courage to do what we know is right?? Thanks to Darin Van Tassell of The Clubhouse in Statesboro, GA, for tuning me into this fantastic opportunity for dialogue.

    1. Tom,

      What an amazing story. I am glad you are really enjoying my posts. I think you are going to love the next post also.

      As a kid growing up my brother and I had many of the same types of experiences you had when you were a kid. I whole heartedly believe this is why I fell in love with the game. Not only did we love the game but there was a great bond between us that developed.

      It is very sad that the opportunities we experienced growing up are no longer really possible. Society changes. This is a good thing because with change comes growth. The problem with baseball at the youth level is that it never really grew with the changing society. Meaning that with kids being more sedentary (technology) and parents not feeling comfortable allowing their children to be alone, unstructered play has taken a big hit. This has had a major impact on the passion for the game. Now passion is evolving from winning games leaving out those who are not as skilled. The changes I have seen involve kids playing tournament after tournament with up to 100 plus games in a season where winning is most important. Development is virtually obsolete so the skills and passion that were developed during unstructured play no longert occur. Change must begin with the experiences created starting at the youngest ages. In a structered setting, couldn’t we develop unstructered activites that the kids make up? Couldn’t this be the culminating activity following some fun and exciting “developmental” work?

      You say that do we have the courage to what we know is right. I would take it one step further and say that 1st we need to know what is right. Most people I have come across at various levels follow the same patterns that they were taught when they played. Now I am not always saying this is bad but in the situations I have been involved with, it is. No education as it relates to baseball or youth development is occuring. Just ask any coach you see on the field what book they read last. Very few will answer with a topic relative to sport play (skill or psychological based).

      Tom, I am enjoying the dialog we have been able to create. We want you to know that your comments mean so much to us as thye will help other readers grow to become the best coach they can possibly become. We thank you here at educatedcoaches.com and cannot wait to talk again.

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