Baseball and softball are games. They are best enjoyed at a neighborhood ballpark with family, friends and neighbors. The bright sun, the happy faces, laughing children, cheering fans, late inning heroics and watching boys and girls mature into fine young adults right before your eyes – this is the Babe Ruth League experience.
Youth baseball and softball are not meant to create a “straw man” of college and big league aspirations for any player willing to pay the fee. Early specialization is what is causing 70% of children to quit organized sports by the age of 13, and many coaches and administrators believe that if we educate the parents, most of these problems would go away.
Parents, you are the solution to what ails youth sports today! You will be the solution when you decide what your child values most, and ensure that your child’s sports experience is delivering those values.
Right now the vocal minority of parents is demanding early single sport specialization, a pre-pubescent focus on winning. Pushing our kids to our goals instead of theirs, emphasizing winning over development. Early sport specialization has been shown by both scientific and psychological research to be damaging to a child’s performance, but because parents demand it, they are able to find coaches and clubs willing to provide that service.
There are a lot of parents who have encouraged their kids to early single sport specialization that will tell you that their gut says the path they are on is wrong, but the need to “keep up with the Joneses” and the fear that they are short changing their child if they do not keep up is so strong that they just do what everyone else is doing. This damaging group thinking, based NOT on the best science but on excellent marketing from businesses that capitalize upon it, has created a generation of disillusioned athletes. It causes children to quit sports. It destroys parent’s relationships with their kids. And it is far less likely to help your child perform his or her best then exposing them to a wide variety of opportunities, and helping them find their own passion.
Studies show that participating in multiple sports leads to greater skill and muscle development. Studies also show that a young athlete’s time playing multiple sports does more than provide the skills needed to maximize one’s athletic potential; it allows them, when they are older, the opportunity to find the right sport for that potential and it allows them to develop character skills. Kids become more resilient facing new character challenges. Every sport presents different obstacles, each an opportunity for growth.
A lot of current and former Major Leaguers are speaking out against the dangers of year-round baseball, as travel ball can result in physical and emotional costs. There are many examples of professional athletes who played more than one sport while growing up. These individuals were able to get to the top of their game without specializing at an early age.
High school and college coaches will tell you that the physical maturation of the whole body will provide your child with a better chance of playing sports in college. College recruiters don’t want someone with only one set of skills. Skills can be taught, but athleticism is earned through years of acceleration, deceleration, rotational power, read and react, and all the other things an athlete learns by participating in multiple sports.
Babe Ruth League is not against healthy competition or playing extra games in weekend tournaments during the season. We are against participating year-long in one sport. Babe Ruth League’s position is that kids should play baseball/softball, soccer, basketball, a musical instrument and specialize later on. Organized youth baseball/softball programs like Babe Ruth League should be a very prominent part of the growth process for kids. Babe Ruth League believes in the importance of connecting with all children in a fun and healthy atmosphere, as well as in providing them with many valuable life lessons that extend beyond the field the play. These life lessons that translate from the playing field to life have always been the reason Babe Ruth League prides itself on being a youth leadership organization, as much as it is a competitive baseball and softball program.
Parents placing kids in specialized sports do so at a price. More doesn’t necessarily mean better. With the increased intensity comes a price – often in time, money and overuse injuries, and in some cases, the child’s interest in the sport and even their physical well being. For the sake of all kids’ development and athletic growth, we challenge parents to incorporate diversity into their child’s play. Remember that specializing at too young an age is wholly unnecessary and in some cases detrimental to an athlete’s long-term success. If the goal is to dominate other 10- year-olds, specialize early. However, if the goal is to nurture healthy children, then diversity is key. Encourage them to play in multiple sports.
The culture of travel ball has taken over what once was simple and innocent. Travel Ball Coaches and Tournament Directors recruiting players know the parents will pay for the promise and guarantee of exposure to college coaches and scouts. They know you will do whatever it takes for your player to get every opportunity he/she needs. But, that’s where it ends. Once the bill is paid, little else is done by anyone to guarantee exposure and recruiting.
If your child is good, they will be found, regardless the path their ball career follows.
Parents, work with your coaches to redefine success. There are millions of parents out there who are capable of taking back youth sports from the few who believe that emphasizing winning over love of the game, and trophies over developing better people, is the path to success. All the science backs that feeling in your gut that the current path is not the right one. We just need to do a better job getting the word out.
It is time for youth sports to serve our kids again. It is time for sports to promote positive values of community-based organizations like Babe Ruth League, who first consider the enjoyment, education and well-being of the participant before anything else. Root for Babe Ruth League! It is time for those of us who have read the science and know that the status quo is wrong to make our voices heard. Change your child, change your team, change your community, and together we will change the world of youth sports.