May 20, 2011

Little League Ruins Baseball

By - Kris Fletcher

I actually debated whether or not I should even open this Pandora's box, but after what I've witnessed the last several weeks, and seeing as how I have a forum where I can voice my opinion, I decided the hell with it.

The title of this article is somewhat misleading. Little League isn't what ruins baseball, but rather a significant number of adults running the Little League organizations around the country that take the fun out of it. After all, baseball is a game, so if you remove fun from the equation, what's left?

Photo by: Grant Parpan
There are so many things going on at Little League ballparks that shouldn't be going on that I'm not sure where to even begin, so if at some point this turns into a full-blown rant, please try and bear with me.

I guess I should start with my own experiences playing Little League. They were some of the funnest and most memorable times of my life. I played in the Little League organization in my town for seven years, from t-ball through the 11/12-year-old division. I made All-Stars the last four years I played at shortstop and second base. I loved every second of it. I would have practiced or played a game every single day if I could have, that's how much I enjoyed it. I couldn't get enough.

It wasn't until I moved up to Babe Ruth League and started playing in high school that everything changed for me. Then, baseball turned into something I despised. It ranked right up there with eating my vegetables at dinner time or taking out the garbage. The coaches went from teachers to dictators. The fun was gone. So, I took my ball, so to speak, and went home. I quit. Not to say that was the right thing to do or that I condone quitting, but when I walked away, it was like a gigantic weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I was so thankful it was over. By that point, I was 16-years-old.

Now I see the same look of despair in the eyes of 9 and 10-year-olds at the ballpark that I had when I was 15-16. Why? If you ask me, there are several reasons.

For starters, there are some kids playing in older divisions that have no business playing in those divisions. Now, a lot of that falls on the parents of the children. But regardless, why in the world would you put your child, no matter how well they played in the lower age brackets, in with the 11/12-year-olds when they're only 9 or 10? The older kids are going to get the bulk of the playing time because there's a "pecking order," so your child is going to ride the pine three or four innings out of a six inning game. Then when they do play, and go up to hit against a kid pitching that outweighs them by 30, 40, even 50 pounds, all they're gonna do is strike out, so all you're doing is completely ruining their confidence. I'm sure you think letting them play with the older kids is going to help them in the long run, but all you're doing is making them not wanna play anymore.

I did my own little survey in the last few weeks at my oldest son's ballpark. I asked 50 different kids if they liked playing baseball. They ranged in age from 6 to 12. Of those 50 kids, 39 of them said they didn't like playing or didn't wanna play. When I asked them why they were playing if they didn't really want to, the most common response was, "My parents make me."

What other possible reasons would these kids have for not wanting to play, aside from what I mentioned earlier? How about the coaches? It seems like 9 out of 10 guys coaching have no business coaching to begin with. I mean, when you've got coaches who are arguing with umpires constantly, and asking the home plate ump to appeal a call one inning and the first base ump to appeal a call the next, who wants to see or be a part of that? For one, there can only be one head ump on the field at any given time, so it's not up for debate to ask every damn umpire on the field to overturn a call every time something happens that you don't like. I guess that's a different story for another day, though.

The umpires that work these games in most cases are either compensated very little, or not at all, so why argue with them? They're doing the best they can. It's pretty bad when you're at a Little League game and the person working the press box has to make an announcement prior to the start of it not to make any type of negative comments towards the umpires, and that announcement is actually directed towards the coaches. What kind of example does that set for the kids you're coaching? Here's a hint, not a good one.

Another problem is that these coaches have no problem showing up the kids in front of everyone. If a kid hits a ball to the outfield and the ball goes under the fence, it's a dead ball. Now, if the outfielder then reaches under the fence to get it and pulls it back under, and the kids on base advance because the ball is back in play, who's fault is that? That's the coaches fault for not making sure his kids know all the fundamental rules of the game. So why would you then scream at the kid in front of everyone and yank him out mid-inning because you didn't explain the rules to him? That's on you, genius, not the 10-year-old.

Face facts guys, you're not Tommy Lasorda or Tony La Russa. When I hear parents in the stands saying, "So-and-so can't get a good team together because they have five or six 12-year-olds they lose every year to Babe Ruth," I laugh. When the coaches have been coaching for like ten years, and they make that clear to everyone that's willing to listen, and they still can't get anything decent out of their players, well those "coaches" should probably find a new pastime, because obviously they're not very good at their current one.

A coaches primary job is to be a teacher. His next job is to be a friend. That's what my coaches were when I was growing up. That's why I loved baseball. A lot of the guys that are coaching kids now act like they're coaching Game 7 of the World Series every time out, and it's a joke. They take something that's supposed to be fun and basically turn it into a big pain in the ass.

I believe baseball's popularity is at an all-time low in this country. Little League coaches could play a big part in turning that around by getting our kids excited about the game again. They would carry that with them right up through adulthood, and even pass it along to their children.

Unfortunately, based on what I've seen, the coaches are more a part of the problem rather than the solution.

Pretty sad.


  1. I agree with you 100%. But here's a few of my thoughts.....I don't like the fact that they make all 12 year olds be in the upper division. When we were kids if you didn't make it at 9 or 10 you just didn't make it. There are kids that would... be playing the entire game in lower division that are now sharing time playing with the 9 and 10's. If 12's go up then 9's should stay down. As far as coaching goes...when we were younger we had some coaches that didn't even have kids on the team. They simply coached for the love of the game. I bet you can't name 5 coaches in the entire league that can say that. It seems as though they only coach to ensure their child moves up every year not to teach the other players how to become better. Maybe that falls on some parents trying to live through their kids, I don't know. Politics seem to play too much of a role now, even more then when we were young. You also can almost pick out the all-star teams before the season even starts. As far as parents making their kids play....when we were young we loved staying outside. Our parents had to make us come in and put our bikes and stuff up. Nowadays many of the kids would rather stay inside and play video games, watch t.v. or be on the computer 24/7. They get no exercise at all and people wonder why this nation is so overweight. Some people make their kids play just so their children get some sort of physical activity. These are just a few of my opinions sorry for the rant! Maybe I need to get a forum like you! Ha ha!

  2. I'm actually with you a FULL 100% on this one. I also played little league and had such a bad experience with it that it turned me off to the sport itself. Alot of my animosity towards baseball is due to the way I was treated while playing and the way I saw how the system actually works.

  3. Glad to see someone is actually coming out and saying something about this. Little League is a joke as far as I'm concerned. It's all about who's daddy is coaching what team. Like Josh said, you can know who's going to make all stars before the season even starts. Couldn't agree with this more!

  4. This is dead-on. My sons coach is awful. Has no business being a coach. Kids don't like baseball anywhere near as much as they did when I was growing up, and the little league coaches play a big part in that. Baseball is probably the 3rd most popular sport now, which is sad. I believe a lot of the steroid stuff turned people and kids in general away from the game as well.

  5. I actually disagree with this. It sounds more like you have a personal ax to grind against a particular coach, rather than meaning it for the majority of them. Which if thats the case, so be it. But I think for the most part the coaches of little league and all organized kids sports are trying to be helpful and teach kids things. Don't get me, there's always going to be a few bad apples, but most of them seem to be okay.

  6. No, no ax to grind. Grant you, I took a few isolated incidents and included them in this, but my overall opinion in general is based on years of observation. It includes tons of coaches, not just one or a selective few.

  7. I know of a few Little League coaches in the Midwest who are really hard on their own children, but have an overall team ideology and do a decent job of trying to teach all of the kids equally. Granted, you're always going to have a handful of players with zero coordination (whose parents are making them spend at least an hour a day away from their video games)along with the crazy minded parents/coaches who fly off the handle at every close call. Somehow they've just multiplied at a weird rate :)

    Honestly though, I think because of video games, the majority of kids wouldn't enjoy baseball. They'd rather be in the house not being forced to be part of a team. We've collectively become a country of lazies that would rather spend time sitting than do anything else - and I think it's reflected in our children.

    The part about screaming at the umps, that's just crazy. Most are volunteers or high school kids just trying to earn some cash and have some fun. Some parents just need to tone it down and have fun.

    Great thoughts, Kris! Any talk of baseball has my interest :)

  8. I am an local league "official" and have been for the last 7 years, also being a coach (for 3 different age groups) as well as supporting my wife managing concessions. I played thru high school and QUIT my senior year because of a coach and still got a scholarship to play ball at college level. My "experienced" opinion is that it is the Parental Factor, lack of involvement with their kids and their league. If they have something 2 complain about , do something about it, by volunteering your time , become involved, learn the game, ask what you can do to help. We all have coaches that dont know what they are doing ( thats why I got involved) but most of the time WE have to ask or recruit ( instead of being asked). Bottom line is that its society as a whole.. VOLUNTEER..Little League is NOT a summer camp. Its a community oreinted organization ran by VOLUNTEERS. If you dont like it get involved and change it. Thats my 2 pennies

  9. I actually agree with pretty much everything you said.

    Don't get me wrong, I know first hand coaching is a handful. More parents should get involved.

    My main issue is the way a lot of coaches handle the children they're over. Kids are easily rattled and turned off of things. In most cases, once they decide they don't like something, that's the end of it. If a coach makes the overall experience lousy, the kids probably going to stop liking the sport.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  10. Very interesting article. I liked reading the responses to it as well. I don't have any children of my own, but I played little league when I was a child, and I enjoyed it.

  11. I would add this, in a lot of ways coaching is a job. I would fully agree that there are bad coaches, but that doesn't make them all bad. Same with bosses. We've all worked for people that were lousy leaders, but we've all probably had some we liked also. I played little league back in the day in Ohio, and for the most part my coaches were pretty good guys. I enjoy the site. You guys keep up the good work.

  12. Just a question, If we are trying to teach the kids the sport whats the purpose of a having a coach that doesn't know the basic rules of the game? It seems to me that would hinder the child more than help them. But what do I know, I'm just a chic.

  13. I would go as far as to say this would count for all youth sports. I've seen youth football coaches that were awful at handling the children they were over. Basketball as well. If you aren't good with children, you probably shouldn't volunteer for something that requires you to be around them.

  14. I couldn't agree more with this. In most cases, youth coaches take the whole thing way too seriously.

    I'd also like to add that I think it's funny how some people go "anonymous" on here when posting comments. If you're too affraid to leave your name, why bother commenting in the first place? Just make up a name. Still would be better than trying to come off all mysterious. Lol

  15. I'm sorry, but this entire article is garbage. Obviously there will be isolated incidents over the course of a season, but 99% of guys that VOLUNTEER to coach are doing it for the right reasons.

    I'll give you this, from what I've read on this site, you're a pretty talented writer, so its a shame you wanna waste your skill on writing something that is so petty.

    Oh, and so theres no confusson, I'm a different anonymous than the other one that replied to this earlier. I'm trying to be "all mysterious" too Trevor.

  16. Well you're certainly entitled to your opinion sir, same as I'm entitled to mine.

    I've been accused of being many a thing in my day, but "petty" isn't one of them, so point for you.

    Now allow me to retort.

    I'm just gonna go out on a limb and assume you're a coach of some kind, who probably has their child playing in the wrong age bracket. Ya know, trying to live your life vicariously through your child. Who by the way, probably wants no part of it.

    Furthermore, you also probably managed to get that child onto an all-star team this year, when he had all of like 3 hits the ENTIRE SEASON. Cause ya know, nothing spells "all-star" like an .072 batting average. But hey, what good is being one of the board members if you're not going to abuse the power, right?

    I'd say THAT qualifies as "garbage" way more than my article does.

    Also, in the future, if you're going to take a shot at me, don't sugarcoat it with a sarcastic complement in the process, cause I won't return the favor. I'll just skip right to the part of belittling you.

  17. Oh you're funny.

  18. Finally, something we can agree on.

  19. I don't know what was better, the post or the reactions the post brought out! Hahaha

  20. Had "Anonymous" actually paid attention to what was going on they would know that these weren't isolated incidents. Furthermore, the guys are volunteering for a reason, to get their kids on the all star team. If this post is petty what would you call grown adults that cheat at a little league game? That's just pathetic in my book.

  21. I like that you have the guts to write an article about the wrongs of youth baseball and youth sports in general. There is not enough information out there about where the future of youth sports is headed. I agree that there are many bad coaches out there that hurt the kids rather than help. Your stats of 39 of 50 kids that do not want to play does not surprise me in the slightest. BUT I think we need to focus on the parents a bit more. Sure, the coaches are guilty of so much but the pressure these parents are putting on 6 & 7yr olds is outrageous to see. More and more parents are treating their kids as meal tickets rather than kids. The constant practicing, competeing, travel ball teams, and harping on these kids to do more and be more is the actual problem in my opinion. Its an epidemic and in due time, there will be MUCH more written about it. Until then, I applaud you for your bravery to write about what you see out there. Its about time people (parents & coaches) take notice.

  22. Thanks for taking the time to read it and offering up some feedback.

  23. LOL This is great.

  24. I really liked this article and as a guy who played 3 years of college ball and also helped coach a little league all-star team, I completely agree with what you said. Frankly thoughthere really is not enough quality coaches in little league any more. Most coaches are dads who know the bare minimum about the game of baseball. Our youth should be learning the fundamentals of the game, but should be able to have fun doing it, laugh when there is a mistake made, be told "its ok you'll get'em next time" incouraging things. People have to relize that these are little kids and still learning and growing. As the older you get the less fun this game becoomes, so fun should be your main goal as a coach, next should be fundamentals, then comes the competitiveness and winning. Three of the kids that I coached in all-stars will be playing Varsity this year as freshmen and that makes me more proud of those kids than anything, that something I taught them made a difference, that is what little league is really about.

  25. I agree 100%. Thanks for taking the time to read it.

  26. First of all, this is issue that has been around for over 35 years - the original "Bad News Bears" was released in 1976.

    Second, I have a tendency to agree - for the most part, little league sports (because it's not just baseball that's the problem} seem to be more for the parents than the kids that participate. Personally, I have never encountered a professional little league coach, most of my children's teams have been coached by parents - and for the most part, these Parent/Coaches fall into two categories:
    (1) Complete Incompetence and basically there to "coach" their own children
    (2) Mildly Incompetent and there to "coach" their own children
    There is a third category, but the are even worse, because they end up using their own kids as "examples" and ride them harder than anyone else.

  27. My Ex husband is one of these coaches , constantly pushing our son. He yells at everyone calls them lazy and such, somehow he has still been allowed to coach consistantly for years, mainly I believe because he does get so involved and follows up to get on the board. He has put our son in leagues above his age in the past and continues to push. There was a year our son wanted out and my ex wouldnt let him. This year our son was forced into fall ball with his dad and i have over heard many parents complaining aobut his coaching style. Is there a place you can look to see if someone has had complaints made about little league coaches???

    1. Thanks for reading.

      This is exactly the type of thing I'm talking about.

      I've done research in the past, and the best I can tell, each individual league is in charge of handling "complaints" against coaches. And as we all know, most of the coaches are either on the board to begin with, or buddy-buddy with the guys that are, so little if anything will be done.

      It's just a sad situation all the way around really. Something that's supposed to be fun for the kids -- isn't.

  28. ive never had a shitty coach but all of my experiences with little league sports were fun. as a parent you definitely need to step in and let a coach know where the line is for your kids.

  29. Why is it that if you go down the roster of most teams, the short stop along with a pitcher is almost always the child of the coach? Just a general observation : )