Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Multi-Position Utilization in Youth Baseball or SAY NO TO DADDYBALL!

I think most people would agree that as parents we try to raise well rounded children.  We want them exposed to different sports and activities, we take them to the zoo, to museums, to movies and to plays.  In the sports world there is just as much data to suggest that the best athletes are those that play different sports throughout their childhood and there are ramifications to single sport specialization.  In 2010 the American College of Sports Medicine published "Early Sport Specialization:  Roots, Effectiveness, Risks".  So as not to risk incorrectly paraphrasing the outcome of the research behind the article, here is the abstract:

Year-round training in a single sport beginning at a relatively young age is increasingly common among youth. Contributing factors include perceptions of Eastern European sport programs, a parent's desire to give his or her child an edge, labeling youth as talented at an early age, pursuit of scholarships and professional contracts, the sporting goods and services industry, and expertise research. The factors interact with the demands of sport systems. Limiting experiences to a single sport is not the best path to elite status. Risks of early specialization include social isolation, over-dependence, burnout, and perhaps risk of overuse injury. Commitment to a single sport at an early age immerses a youngster in a complex world regulated by adults, which is a setting that facilitates manipulation - social, dietary, chemical, and commercial. Youth sport must be kept in perspective. Participants, including talented young athletes, are children and adolescents with the needs of children and adolescents.
With the exception of those living with their head in the sand, I don't think one would disagree with this assessment.   So if it's healthy to expose our children to different activities and it's healthy to expose our children to multiple sports, then:

Why do youth baseball teams tend to play kids in a primary position at young ages?   I think there are multiple answers.  One of which is "Daddy-ball".  According to daddy-ball is:

A term that has been used to describe when your child’s coach has a son or daughter on the same team, and that parent/coach gives their own child more opportunities, playing time, and usually the most popular position on the team

This is rampant in youth sports...Dad's coaching teams to protect their own child or give their own child the undeserved opportunity to play more or play specific positions.  This is also the reason that many players 1) never develop to their potential 2) become frustrated and quit and why teams loose players or dissolve after one or two seasons.  It takes alot of effort and concentration to avoid the temptation of daddy-ball.

The second reason is that the focus is placed on wins and not on the overall development of the team as a WHOLE.  I have fallen victim to this as a coach in the past and have made it a priority to avoid in the future.  It is so easy to put your best player in as a shortstop and your best glove at 1st base and collect some wins and trophies!  It takes courage to place boys in multiple positions.  You will loose more games and you may even loose some families from your team.  The win-at-all costs mentality breeds an environment of poor decision making and inevitably poor morals.   Its a slippery slope that will go nowhere fast.

Up until 11U baseball the boys should be exposed to as many positions as possible.  The wins will start pilling up.  All of the sudden you will have a team that has 4 different SS. 3 catchers, 9 pitchers, 4 1B, and an entire team of good outfielders!  I cant imagine what would be better to a high school or college coach than seeing a player that can play 5 different positions with confidence.

After all youth baseball is not about the wins, its about the experience.  However the result of providing the best baseball experience  (developing relationships, teaching fundamentals, teaching teamwork, and good morals) will likely be A LOT OF WINS.  Its a WIN-WIN SITUATION.

A little more clarity.....

Coach Rich

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