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Friday, August 26, 2011

ESPN: Keown: Where the ‘elite’ kids shouldn’t meet

The days of simply playing ball with your friends is over. It’s a different world out there for the preteen athlete, with “Elite” and “Select” commonly turning up in the names of our youth sports teams and leagues. We’re having tryouts for 10-and-under traveling baseball teams, and we’ve got 10-and-under basketball teams traveling the country playing against other fourth-graders at God knows what cost to the parents’ bank accounts and the kids’ psyches. All in the name of … what? Trophies? Exposure? A leg up on a college scholarship? The egos of the parents?

......

These are 9- and 10-year-olds, which raises a question: What the hell are we doing?

Jim Wisinski Posted: August 26, 2011 at 10:41 PM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: amateur

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   1. Bob Evans Posted: August 26, 2011 at 11:34 PM (#3909934)
Some good points when he sticks more or less to facts; fewer when he gets on his pulpit.

Local independent teams--most of them touting the supposed benefits of year-round play--skim top players out of neighborhood Little Leagues.

They surely have where I live.

Anyone who has spent more than five innings watching 10-year-olds play baseball--or one half of a basketball game--knows that athletic ability in a kid that young is directly related to physical maturity.

Nonsense. Yes, it helps, but if you can't see talent in a kid less mature than others, you're not trying.

I really don't think travel ball is quite the cesspool of proxy relief of frustrated hopes and dreams he makes it out to be. I know many parents who have their kids in baseball/soccer/etc. travel leagues, and they're nice folks who just think they're doing their best by their kids. It's not all that different from having your musically inclined kid do more challenging music or play in more challenging ensembles.

It surely is expensive, though.
   2. McCoy Posted: August 26, 2011 at 11:47 PM (#3909940)
Well, according to the freakonomics authors the vast majority of the kids on these types of teams are born in the first few months of the year (or whatever cutoff the leagues have set up) and I think it even shows up somewhat at the professional level. The coaches pick the older boys and girls to play because they are quite frankly bigger, more coordinated, and bigger than the younger boys and girls.
   3. Bob Tufts Posted: August 26, 2011 at 11:51 PM (#3909943)
As I said on an earlier post, there are only 11.7 scholarships for baseball per year in Division I. If you want to spend $ 200,000 on your kid's sports career to get a free ride, you are a moron!

Forget paying college athletes - shoudl the kids in the LLWS get compensation, as Dan Wetzel suggested on yahoo.com?
   4. Marmaduke Ellington Posted: August 27, 2011 at 12:42 AM (#3909981)
OK, I'm confused (by which I obviously mean "I think Keown is confused"):

He complains about "tryouts for 10-and-under traveling baseball teams," but then he also complains that these leagues boost too many kids' self-esteem. So which is it? Are these "elite" teams too selective, or not selective enough?

And his last two paragraphs miss something huge: Isn't it remotely possible that this Buddy Wall guy did have some talent, that might have come to a better end if he'd actually gotten to, y'know, face people who were as good as he is, and better yet get the kind of coaching that would let him actually improve?
   5. SteveF Posted: August 27, 2011 at 12:50 AM (#3909982)
In the future they won't be picking by age, but by which kids aren't morbidly obese.
   6. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: August 27, 2011 at 12:58 AM (#3909989)
Kids are smelly and bad for the economy. They should be put to work in the salt mines.
   7. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 27, 2011 at 01:37 AM (#3910018)
Isn't it remotely possible that this Buddy Wall guy did have some talent, that might have come to a better end if he'd actually gotten to, y'know, face people who were as good as he is, and better yet get the kind of coaching that would let him actually improve?


There aren't many travel teams where that kind of coaching is provided, because many of them are playing games and traveling, and the coaches don't have a lot of chances to do a lot of instructing. (Quite a few of them aren't very good at it, either.)

-- MWE
   8. McCoy Posted: August 27, 2011 at 02:05 AM (#3910044)
If he needs coaching to better himself then his family is going to have to hire a personal coach.


As for the scholarships, the kids don't even get a free ride because those limited scholarships get broken up amongst the entire team.
   9. Kurt Posted: August 27, 2011 at 02:17 AM (#3910050)
It surely is expensive, though.

No kidding. I looked into travel soccer for my 10 year old last year here in DC, it was $1400 for the year. No thanks.
   10. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 27, 2011 at 02:27 AM (#3910059)
No kidding. I looked into travel soccer for my 10 year old last year here in DC, it was $1400 for the year. No thanks.


My youngest boy and I were recently over at the little league diamond, with me throwing him some BP and hitting some pop-ups, just for the hell of it. On the next diamond over was one of his LL teammates, who was practicing for his upcoming tryout for the traveling team. The dad gives us the run down on the costs, $700 just to join, about $3,200 in total expenses for the year. As we're walking away, my 9-year-old says, "Wow, that's way too much money."

I was glad he said it before I had to. And I told him if it was really important to him that he get good at baseball, he should keep practicing.
   11. Kurt Posted: August 27, 2011 at 02:35 AM (#3910068)
I didn't get the point of the Buddy Wall story either. His thoughts about how Wall would have fared in the travel league era didn't even rise to the level of speculation.
   12. adenzeno Posted: August 27, 2011 at 11:04 AM (#3910172)
It has destroyed what used to be local "Little League" programs in my area-The best kids are gone from those leagues which leaves few to pitch and the games, were there any, turn in to walk a thons. Fewer kids can afford to play(and no one seems to just head to the park and play a pick up game anymore)and participation drops in HS. I played in college and then "professsionally" in Italy, but as a 13-16 year old, I was never good enough to make any "elte" team (we called it American Legion ball back then) nor would I have asked my parents to spend that type of $$ money. Having quality local leagues allowed me to play and get to the point where I became a decnt player.
   13. Bob Evans Posted: August 27, 2011 at 11:07 AM (#3910173)
I looked into travel soccer for my 10 year old last year here in DC, it was $1400 for the year.

Here, and of course elsewhere I'm sure, kids are encouraged to get sponsors to defray the costs of travel sports. So, this turns them and their parents into hustlers/grovelers, which to me is by far the sleaziest thing about it all.
   14. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: August 27, 2011 at 12:06 PM (#3910181)
Well, according to the freakonomics authors the vast majority of the kids on these types of teams are born in the first few months of the year (or whatever cutoff the leagues have set up) and I think it even shows up somewhat at the professional level. The coaches pick the older boys and girls to play because they are quite frankly bigger, more coordinated, and bigger than the younger boys and girls.

Soccer teams have noticed this on their youth teams as well. The team I follow, Tottenham, have made it a point in recent years to develop more kids born later in the year.

Also, more generally, I think it's kind of a shame parents are taking the athletic endeavors of their 9 and 10 year olds so seriously.
   15. Bob Evans Posted: August 27, 2011 at 01:16 PM (#3910206)
I think it's kind of a shame parents are taking the athletic endeavors of their 9 and 10 year olds so seriously.

I truly believe it's possible to do this without being an awful parent. You can't generalize.
   16. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 27, 2011 at 02:09 PM (#3910223)
As a kid I always thought the local travel team literally was an All-Star team, chosen by the local Little League to represent it. Never had any idea there was a conflict between the travel team and the local league.
   17. Bob Evans Posted: August 27, 2011 at 08:26 PM (#3910435)
Crispix, when you were a kid, it might have been that the all-star team was chosen after the season and went on to other things. Nowadays those teams are most definitely in direct competition with LL for players. I will say that this is not necessarily to the detriment of LL; it gives some less-talented kids a chance to shine a bit.
   18. bond1 Posted: August 28, 2011 at 06:45 AM (#3910680)
We had a 13-14 year old travel ball team that was set up by several parents and played in the local PONY league for a reasonable fee. We also decided to play one tournament a month, and the highlight of our year came when we beat the local "elite" team to win a big local tournament. Some other teams had "professional" coaches who collected $150-$200 per month from each player. If you're going to spend money, there's no question you're better off paying for private lessons and not spending a whole lot to play. Baseball is a game where you don't learn a whole lot in games but you DO learn a whole lot in practice. And by practice, that means countless repititions not only for soft toss, hitting off a tee but also for engraining drills like cut-offs, proper positioning, etc. Its amazing how many kids drop out of baseball when they get to high school because their natural abilities or their early maturity is no longer enough to dominate their peers.
   19. It's a shame about Athletic Supporter Posted: August 28, 2011 at 06:54 AM (#3910681)
No kidding. I looked into travel soccer for my 10 year old last year here in DC, it was $1400 for the year. No thanks.


In a world where parents are spending $30K on private elementary schools, this actually seems much lower than I would have guessed.

Thought: If these are the elite kids, maybe the deal should be that the elite development programs get 1% of the kid's future earnings playing the sport.
   20. Something Other Posted: August 28, 2011 at 10:48 PM (#3911067)
It has destroyed what used to be local "Little League" programs in my area-The best kids are gone from those leagues which leaves few to pitch and the games, were there any, turn in to walk a thons.
No snark intended: why not just have an adult pitch? Slightly different game, but a better game, from the alternative you're describing. Oh, and how old are the kids in the situation you're describing?

Fewer kids can afford to play(and no one seems to just head to the park and play a pick up game anymore)...
That's consistent with everything I hear and the opposite of how it was when I was a kid (and I say this as someone who doesn't think everything's worse now). In the good old days, pickup games were the meat of my and my friends' sports play. Little league was fine--stats counted, which was cool. I don't think we had uniforms, but we might have had caps, and having nine per side was a dream--but it only lasted ten or twelve games, and during the rest of the year I played hundreds of baseball games and didn't miss little league. After all, little league meant having grown ups around and grown ups took the fun out of things.

In pickup games I could demand to play the infield and make it stick. I had poor depth perception, but I could compensate when in the infield. I was a pretty good SS. In little league, I'd sometimes have to do what I was told, and got stuck in the OF, where I was useless.

Interesting--you could tell people with the authority to move you around that you, a bright, agile, polite ten year old, could not catch balls hit in the air to the outfield. They were largely unable to listen, and like as not thought you had some obscure, irrelevant reason for wanting to be in the infield and, as so many adults are contrarian when it comes to childrens' wants, stuck me in the OF and got upset when fly balls fell to earth and died a good ten feet in front of me.

I played in college and then "professsionally" in Italy,...
Cool! Any stories you'd care to share?

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