Saturday, July 5, 2008
RT Staff Note: The following story is real folks. I wouldn't make this stuff up. The City of Beachwood a close by suburb of Cleveland, has decided to break tradition and cancel a Little League All-Star game for children ages 9-12.
In March, Beachwood Mayor Merle Gordon sent a letter to parents of children involved in the Little League program stating the city was canceling the All-Star game based on information provided in an article written by the founder of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, Fred Engh. Wacky Freddy has been advocating positive and safe sports for children since 1981.
In his article, Freddy states..."There’s nothing like sticking a dagger into a youngster’s self-esteem the first season he plays the sport by letting him know that he’s not good enough or considered worthy to be part of this elite group of teammates. That’s not the message we want to send to children who are already less active and more obese than any previous generation in history."
Hmmmm....so just because Tommy is obese, you punish Timmy who works his butt off? Wow...we just don't get this at all. Hey parents, if your kid is obese...turn off the TV, limit video game usage, quit buying Ding Dongs and let your kid explore a real world out doors rather than the virtual one he thinks he lives on Playstation.
According to Mayor Gordon, so far, he has received nearly no opposition to the cancellation of the game. It must be noted that we tried to call the mayors office and there was no answer. That could explain the opposition thing. Either that or the parents and kids were too busy indoors playing the latest Halo video game.
However, there is hope in this Rock and Roll Town. In a poll conducted by My Fox Cleveland over 983 votes were cast and 84% stated that "Kids Should be Rewarded for Their Play." Only 9% thought that the decision boosted self esteem. Maybe Mayor Gordon was too busy clicking the "boost self esteem" poll button to answer the phone, because we can't see why anyone would think that this decision is even remotely close to sane.
"The goal of the youth programs is to introduce the concept of teamwork, provide instruction and foster the love of the game." said Mayor Gordon in a Fox News interview. HUH? Ok, Mayor...we get that...Did you get that statement off of the Little League Web site? What does that have to do with the decision to cancel the games though? And why is a mayor involved in this decision? Is this really his call? Shouldn't the Little League national organization have a say?
Personally, we think that the low self esteem comes from living in the Cleveland area and has nothing to do with All Star games. This decision is the true Mistake By The Lake. OK, that was a joke...kind of...The Cleveland metro area isn't exactly the hotbed of youth baseball. This isn't that big of a loss for them. Now try to ban All-Star games in California, Florida, Georgia or Texas and see what happens. This decision just proves that we are turning into a world of softies and whiny non-winners. We don't think we should ban All Star Games at all. We think sports should BAN:
1. Trophies for everyone...We hate that and always have. If a player or his team didn't earn a trophy based on performance, they don't deserve one. Earning a trophy for mediocrity just teaches more mediocrity and breeds spoiled children and attitudes of entitlement.
2. Talent that is spread out evenly. The democratic system of Little League destroys Little League....thus the flight to more and more travel teams. The best players should all play on the best teams and leagues...The middle of the road/developing players should play in another league and so on. This promotes more playing time for all players. A kid with little or no athletic ability gets to play with others of alike ability...with the key word being PLAY! Birds of a feather flock together. It works. Everyone plays...no one gets teased or sits the bench. The better players develop along with other better players, making them....better. The second tier players on the other leagues also benefit from more playing time and also get the opportunity to get better and play in their own All-Star games. You promote self esteem by playing. If there are still bruised egos in this system...well...maybe sports isn't their calling. And that's OK. Sports is not the end-all for a majority of players. But at least this system rewards players for excelling and playing well with players of their own ability. More kids get a chance to play in All Star Games...It may not appease Freddy, but it's the right thing to do.
The bottom line is that sports and especially baseball is about successes AND failure. We think it's worse that a league or Mayor punishes its good players and denies them a chance to show off their talents at an All Star Game. We don't care if they are 9 or 19...players that earned accolades should be celebrated and honored.
If I were that mediocre player that wouldn't have had a chance to make an All-Star team...I'd feel terrible for my team mate that worked hard and earned a shot at fame to only have it denied. Was Pavlov that off base? You work hard, you get rewarded. That's the American way.
Sir Winston Churchill once said, "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." Yet if these kids are all treated equally, how will they ever learn what failure or success is?
It's no surprise that the acronym for Wacky Freddy's organization is NAYS...and the nays may have it in Cleveland...but they have it all wrong. Here's Freddy's article. Please respond. His e-mail is below.
Bench All-Star Games
Kids will thank you for it
By Fred Engh
The familiar sights and sounds of spring are just around the corner--birds chirping, flowers blooming and millions of parents cheering on children participating in organized baseball and softball programs nationwide.
Yet alarmingly, many kids’ experiences will be sabotaged when that nasty storm cloud--the All-Star selection process--rolls through. That ridiculous time of the year when ego-driven coaches and parents begin puffing their chests out a little more at the ballpark, and talks shift to how their child is All-Star worthy because of their ability to throw harder or hit better than their teammates.
Granted, there are endless issues that today’s parks and recreation professionals must deal with while orchestrating programs, but it has baffled me for decades that this topic continues to be ignored season after season.
A Bruised Ego
There’s nothing like sticking a dagger into a youngster’s self-esteem the first season he plays the sport by letting him know that he’s not good enough or considered worthy to be part of this elite group of teammates. That’s not the message we want to send to children who are already less active and more obese than any previous generation in history.
Just think for a moment how preposterous All-Star games are, especially in T-ball or beginning-level programs. In kindergarten classrooms across the country, do we take the kids who are learning letters and numbers quicker than their classmates and announce that these kids are special and give them extra attention and cool extracurricular activities to participate in? Of course not! That would destroy the others’ confidence and make them feel insignificant.
So why do administrators continue to allow these senseless games to be played at their facilities? Just because they’ve been conducted for decades doesn’t mean that’s the blueprint for the future.
All-Star games make about as much sense as taking a vegetarian to a fancy steakhouse, or hitting an all-you-can-eat buffet with a friend who is struggling to stick to a diet.
All-Star games should be benched for several reasons:
• It doesn’t take much to figure out that kids who mature quicker than others are going to be stronger, faster and probably more productive on the field. So, we’re simply recognizing players whose bodies have developed faster in many cases.
• The entire process is twisted. I’d love to know the percentage of kids who are chosen for these All-Star teams who have a parent involved in coaching. Mom or Dad justify choosing their own child--even if he’s clearly not one of the better players--because they’ve surrendered a lot of their free time to volunteer to coach.
• The injury factor. Stress fractures, trips to specialists and surgeries come into play when these seasons are extended with extra games and practices. They take a toll on young bodies and lead to an avalanche of overuse injuries.
On top of all this, the National Standards for Youth Sports state that leagues should not engage in choosing post-season All-Star teams. The standards were put together by some of the nation’s top recreation professionals and are the true voice of reason when it comes to youth sports.
Take The Initiative
The solution is clear and simple--ban All-Star games. Singling out players for these teams smothers the purpose of recreational youth sports leagues, where the emphasis should be on participation and learning.
Yes, many parents nationwide will no doubt cringe at this stance because All-Star games are a great source of pride when a child earns that distinction, but the kids could care less. What 5 year old, who can’t even tie his shoes yet, gains any extra satisfaction from being chosen for these teams?
I’ll bet your recreation department is involved in All-Star games in some way. If you don’t step forward to push for change, who will?
If you’re feeling reluctant to do something, consider all the children who feel hurt, left out and embarrassed by being passed over every season.
Youth sports aren’t meant to single out only a handful of kids; they’re about making every child feel special, including those who won’t make the All-Star team.
Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla., which has been advocating positive and safe sports for children since 1981. He is also the author of “Why Johnny Hates Sports,” which is available on Amazon.com. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.