Yes, it's cold outside and yes, it's just January. So why in the world would we want to discuss youth baseball programs? Well, some area programs have once again reported that numbers were down from previous years and, just like last year, they are hoping for a better turnout of youngsters in 2014.
Numbers were not only down in our area but in other parts of the United States as well.
This problem appears to be hitting smaller communities harder than larger cities and the economy has been one of the reasons that tops many communities’ lists as the main culprit.
But a survey of 13-15-year-olds, both male and female who had participated in youth sports, especially baseball, gave the following reasons why they lost interest in youth sports: (1) I was no longer interested in the sport. (2) Playing sports was no longer any fun. (3) The sport took too much of my time. (4) The coach played favorites. (5) I was tired of playing. (6) The coach was a poor teacher. (7) Too much emphasis was put on winning. (8) My dad/mom wanted me to play and I didn't want to disappoint them. (9) Too much pressure. (10) Coaches’/adults’ behavior at the ball park.
Seventy to seventy-five percent of the approximately 30 million youth who play in organized out-of-school athletic programs will quit by age 13 because of an unpleasant sports experience.
Maybe it's time to step back and take a good look at how youth sports programs are being run for today's youth. By the way, the number one reason given was it was no longer FUN.
What can we do to make youth sports better? The easy answer seems to be to find a way to make it FUN. As parents and coaches we need to take the emphasis off of ‘winning is everything.’
Take that pressure off of the young boys and girls playing these sports and work a little harder on teaching them the fundamentals of the game. If we can do this, learning how to win will come because each team would be on a more even playing field.
Nobody is saying ‘let's teach them to lose every game’ because that would send just as negative a message as telling them you have to win at any cost. By teaching them sportsmanship, and displaying good sportsmanship ourselves, we would be surprised at the impact it would have on the way they play the game.
Let's try not to invest our ego into these young players; we aren't 10-12 years old; win or lose let's make sure they shake the other team’s hand. We must find a way to teach these youngsters that good sportsmanship means sharing victories in a team manner. It's okay to be the team star, but it takes more than one player to win or lose a game.
We as adults have the ability and the responsibility to make these leagues as much FUN for these youngsters as possible while taking time to teach sportsmanship, fundamentals, respect for others (teammates, coaches, officials) and love of the game so that this generation of young people will learn how to move these programs forward and make them better for the next generation.
Even though the first pitch in our area is a couple of months down the road, it's not too early to start thinking about being a volunteer coach, umpire, concession stand worker, scorekeeper or team sponsor. You can be sure that most programs in our area will need to fill most, if not all, of these positions. Oh, let's not forget the youngsters in our communities because if you don't bring them out, hopefully in large numbers, these programs don't stand a chance of growing.
Please help out any way that you can and remember to go to the ball park and cheer for your favorite team when the 2014 season gets under way.