How to keep it FUN!?!?

Wondering how to strike that delicate balance between keeping youth baseball FUN, while also trying to win, not over-do it, and give kids a break in the off-season to play other sports/other positions, etc.

This seems to be one of the trickiest balancing acts - you don’t want your kid to burn out on baseball, to get injured, to not have fun - but you also want to win a little and instill good work ethic/habits.

I coach high school and college kids, where you typically don’t worry much about this… but I think a lot of coaches do in youth baseball.

Hi, Steve.
Have you ever watched Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano in action? If ever anyone is having fun playing the game, it’s him. Even when he makes the most difficult plays, which he makes look easy, he’s absolutely having a ball. If only more people—players, coaches, whatever—knew his secret!

When looking at a LL/rec team/league, I don’t believe you can. When you put that diverse a group in terms of size, ability, and attitude on the field at the same time you just cannot make it fun for everyone.

That’s why I think there’s a place for both rec and travel ball, and it’s disappointing when they are pitted against one another.

At 10 my son came to me in the middle of a LL game and said, word for word, “Lets leave. Why are we here? No one cares, not the players, not the coaches, not the parents, lets just leave”. And it wasn’t that we were losing, the kid can deal with a loss, it’s that nobody care that we were losing. How are you going to keep a kid like that happy in a rec league setting?

[quote=“SomeBaseballDad”]When looking at a LL/rec team/league, I don’t believe you can. When you put that diverse a group in terms of size, ability, and attitude on the field at the same time you just cannot make it fun for everyone.

That’s why I think there’s a place for both rec and travel ball, and it’s disappointing when they are pitted against one another.

At 10 my son came to me in the middle of a LL game and said, word for word, “Lets leave. Why are we here? No one cares, not the players, not the coaches, not the parents, lets just leave”. And it wasn’t that we were losing, the kid can deal with a loss, it’s that nobody care that we were losing. How are you going to keep a kid like that happy in a rec league setting?[/quote]

Thought I would throw in my two-cents on this topic. Our LL District is going through a split between between those who want to play “elite” ball and those who want to stay in LL. The parents of the “elite” kids want “higher” competition than LL provides. Most of these kids were chosen when they were 8 and are being groomed to be the up and coming High School team, and the parents feel their kids will be stunted if they don’t play “real” baseball at 12.

So, we had the discussion at the kitchen table this weekend with my 12U son. Does he want to play with the elite team, or not. With the best 12U kids gone from LL, there’s no chance of making States or Regionals, let alone Williamsport. The competition would be watered down. His friends that he’s played with for the past couple of year would be on the elite team, not LL. He played 14U this fall and dominated. I would leave the decision to him.

I was suprised by his answer. “Dad, I’m really looking forward to playing with the littler kids. They’re nice and accept me. The Travel Team kids don’t accept me, and it’s no fun playing with them. I want to stay in LL and ride these little kids to the States. Plus dad, I’ll be crushing home runs every at-bat!”

Keeping it fun. Crushing home runs. Helping the littler kids play better. Being a mentor. That’s what he wants.

He starts basketball tomorrow, and is looking forward to the sprints and suicides 'cause he knows it will get him in shape for next spring. And sometime between now and when the elite team begins practice, I’ll need to inform them my son’s not going along for the ride, and explain over and over it’s not fun for him. And they will hate me. Their expectation of winning will be shattered. I’m sure no one will understand. What they’ll see is their only feared hitter in the lineup and their golden arm walked away. And for what? To play with unskilled kids who don’t steal. And my son will be having fun hitting home runs, mentoring the little kids, perfecting his pitches in the seclusion of BP and his pitching coach.

I’ve heard from some of the parents that their kids are burned out from playing baseball all year and can’t wait to stop; yet, they wouldn’t miss the oppurtunity for them to be on the elite team. In their words, it’s about being challenged, playing against and with the best. It’s not about being a kid and having fun.

Together, these kids had a shot at States or even Regionals. I fear most of them will lose out due to the split.

I think a youth baseball coach has to be creative with their practices to keep the kids engaged and working the entire time they are at practice.

There has to be friendly competition while working on skill work at that age.

If the coach puts forth more effort and is enjoying the game and having fun with the players himself, while teaching mechanics etc. they will want to play more games and will do their very best for that coach.

Very good question Steve. Through part of my psychology degree studies I had the privelage to spend a summer interning for an amazing professor who specialized in developemental psychology. Being a newly hired baseball coach at the time I was wondering the same kinds of things. through my casual research and time spent with her here’s what i learned.

*keep in mind this might have been common knowledge and already stated but I plan on maybe carrying out some field research on childhood sports psychology

  1. Striking this difficult balance is best mediated with a good understanding of the physiological nature of how children percieve things such as practice etc especially i nthe context of the peers. From my empirical observations, practices that are kept at a medium to slow pace gaurantees that every single player on the team at least has a chance to integrate what is being taught into their own developing minds.

  2. In terms of youth baseball, I would guess fro ages 8-14, having a younger coach/ prescence that every player on the team can relate too will work a lot of magic. A lot of teams around this age have a strong tie to the coach and assistant coach, i.e. two players fathers. At this stage in childhood developement kids need someone to emulate and if their own father is not present, it is significantly easier to do so for someone 1. younger and 2. someone who isn’t their freind/ teammates dad.

Hope this helps,
Cheers