Are We Raising Cry Baby Athletes?
By Guest Author Jim Bain
Unfortunately, with my age and schedule I don't have the time to watch little league baseball like I wish. So when the neighbors invited my wife and I to go to their twelve year old grandson's baseball game, we both jumped at the chance.
I almost wish I hadn't went. It'd be totally unfair to judge the state of our young athletes by what I saw at one ball game, but I was shocked at what I witnessed from the players of both teams.
By twelve years old players should be coming to terms with the basics of fielding, hitting and running, but that is not what I saw. Although the opposing team seemed to be the better coached team, most of their quality efforts were the skills of the individual players.
You're probably thinking "lighten up buddy, these teams may have been thrown together from the remnants of non-drafted players." I wish that were true, but this was a playoff game between undefeated and once defeated teams.
I was not impressed with the quality of coaching from either dugout, as there was little coaching to be impressed about. In order to give the coaches the benefit of the doubt, I can see the reasoning, although I strongly disagree, with being a hardnosed coach during practices, then sit back at the game and see how well the kids have learned. Idiotic reasoning.
If you're thinking "I thought this was an article on the players, not lousy coaches," you were not wrong. Just wanted to set the scenario for you.
We all know the regulation strike zone called out in the rule book, but we also know each umpire has his own strike zone. This particular home plate umpire had a low strike zone, which I agree with, but that doesn't matter. What matters is the zone was called consistently and equally for both teams. You can not ask for anything any better from a plate umpire.
I guess it was the bottom of the second inning when what I began seeing astonished me. Despite a strike zone being firmly established, most players would stand and watch two called strike pitches go by without attempting a swing, which is not necessarily unusual.
What was unusual, and in my opinion totally unacceptable, was the players would either argue the call, or clearly demonstrate their disagreement with the call with their body language. These are 12 year old kids arguing with, or trying to show up an adult umpire over called strikes and nobody did anything about it.
I was stunned, but the worse was yet to come. If the batter swung and missed the third strike, he'd stand at the plate showing his disgust. Then he'd walk slowly to the dugout with an assortment of different actions from different players.
Some would jog back to the dugout and sit down, some would throw their batting helmets to the ground, some mumbled under their breath, and by this point I was convinced they were curse words. If this had been an isolated incident it'd be no big deal, but this type of situation played out at least a dozen times during the game.
My wife recognized I wanted to leave, but vetoed the idea as not polite. Then... then the ultimate shock. I had to do a double take because I'd never seen anything like this before, but I saw several batters, these are twelve year old players, returning from striking out with tears running down their cheeks.
I noticed a player sniffling returning to the dugout after being thrown out attempting to steal second base, which bled into another issue. I stood there, I could no longer sit, and watched one runner after another either be thrown out on the base paths, or end up at second on a ball hit off the fence and misplayed by the outfielder.
I turned to my wife and asked her if it was me or did the runners appear to be running in slow motion. Seeing some rabbits round the bases from both sides I decided it wasn't me, these kids literally didn't know how to run.
My wife knew I was confounded by my silence in the truck and answered my unasked question. We are raising a generation which success is not only expected, but owed them. Their game playing, by whatever medium, has replaced or hindered the development of basic skills, such as running.
I truly believe I'm over-reacting and this is not the general state of little league baseball. Disrespect and the throwing of tantrums by players can not be the norm. Coaches acting like they're... I don't know what, but not coaches, is not the norm.
I felt like Rip-Van-Winkle awaking to an entirely different world. I do hope this was only a dream.
Jim Bain, former Minor league baseball player and member of "Baseball Coaches of America" shares his advice on baseball coaching baseball drills on his exciting info packed website: http://www.learn-youth-baseball-coaching.com
Be sure to check out his 2 books on Amazon, "The Pitch" and "Season of Pain". Great reading about baseball.
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