Why do so many youth baseball players "burn out"?

And perhaps more importantly, what can be done about it to keep kids in the game? As a coach, do you have any “best practices” you can share? Im talking about kids burning out between 12 and 13 or 14 years old, which is when some of the largest drop offs in amateur baseball happens.

  1. Overbearing coaches/parents
  2. They don’t really “love” baseball. It’s a sport, and most boys will play almost any sport, especially if their friends are. But they’re not really committed to baseball.
  3. They hit puberty and the big fields. The smaller/weaker players can see the writing on the wall and pursue other interest.

Most likely combination’s of the above. For me it was 1&2. I was really good, dad pushed, but I didn’t really love baseball. It was easy to quite. For most kids it’s most likely 2&3.

You forgot
4. Girls, Cars, girls in cars.

It stinks to see kids quitting any sport, but nobody likes doing something they don’t feel like they are good at. Who really wants to go out there play 2 innings hit one time and be at the field for 3 hours. Saying that they or the parents won’t help them put in the time to keep that from happening either.

Parents are my guess. we play in a tourney this weekend with no game on mothers day (sunday) one game friday and to go to the championship game on sturday nite which we do alot means 4 games sat… you can see it my kids the youngest on the 12u team playing as an 11 yr old you can see it they lose focus, be looking in the stands watching whats going on. in the other tams dugout. last year we played 68 games i think in 14 weeks. 5 games a week sometimes more. thats alot to ask 11 or 12 yr old.

A lot of good players don’t make the middle school teams. Grade 6-8 with 650 students, 325 boys in school, 13 players on a team, 4 make it per year. Depends on where you live, but those are not good odds.

Al good answers above although some are simply new interests as opposed to getting burnt out on one interest. He’re my list:

(1) Negative coaches
(2) Pushy parents
(3) Pressure to perform
(4) Specializing in one sport at a young age
(5) Playing year-round with no time off

I think the solution to these issues are obvious.

In the current issue of the Sporting News there’s an article about Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, and one paragraph struck me as being very pertinent to the problem. I’m going to quote that paragraph verbatim here:
{Jeff Segar, who played with Cano in the minors from 2001-03, now lives in Alabama and owns a training facility for young athletes. He has one directive to the hypercompetitive, too-serious, everything’s-life-or-death kids and, more often, to their parents from whom they learned these traits: HAVE FUN. And he uses Cano as the primary example of how to do that. “Watch him play his game,” Segar tells them. “See how much fun he’s having. If you’re not having fun, why are you playing the game?”}
And that’s a key reason why so many young athletes drop out—baseball is no longer fun for them, maybe never was. Something to think about. 8)

It just amazes me, as I’m sure it does every other grizzled old fart like myself, when I see coaches, players, and/or parents who don’t understand that the game literally isn’t worth playing if it isn’t fun! And what’s even more amazing is, the number of players who aren’t having fun, but keep on playing.

I was recently in a conversation with a couple parents just before one of our HS games. One is an ex-NFL linebacker and the other a longtime rancher. For a couple weeks, the general consensus has been that the boys’ performances were generally flat and played without a lot of passion. When I suggested they were all in need of a rest, you’d have thought I’d suddenly taken on the visage of the now dead leader of Al-Quaeda.

They did what most people do, and only considered the short term rather than the much larger picture. The football player father of a super-stud Soph went on about how they needed to go all out for the measly 30 games, or turn in their uniforms and get a job! The other dad, has a son who’s a Sr and hoping upon hope that he gets drafted because he’s not getting any offers for scholarships. He went on about how they have to understand how much each performance means, especially when there are scouts watching.

I asked the football player dad how many hours he thought his boy had dedicated to baseball since football season was over. It started out with only a hundred or so hours until I reminded him that there were at least 2 hours of conditioning every school day with the team from the 1st of Nov until the 1st of Feb. He’d also forgotten the conditioning of at least an hour a day at home working with friends in their beautiful home gym facilities. He’d also forgotten about the 3-4 hours a week spent driving and working out with the private pitching and hitting coaches all winter long.

He’d also miscounted the 3-4 hours a day of practices and games since the season started, and failed to include the at least half hour of driving for every game, and the 4 day Easter tournament. And when I warned him that for the summer, since he’s already signed up for at least a couple, at least 3 showcases I know of, the summer league with the HS team, traveling to I don’t know how many tournaments all over the country, and trying to get spring football and fall football jammed in there too, its just a little bit more than a measly 30 games.

Although that boy is the exception more than the rule, there are several boys on our team who are on a similarly hectic baseball schedule. IOW, their baseball career has turned into a job, and many of the kids, even the ones who aren’t the and put in the hectic schedule, are tired of the grind, especially the Srs who have many other thoughts in their heads than coming out on a Sat to do a few hours of hitting.

The same kind of thing goes on from t-ball on as well, and way too many folks don’t seem to get it.

You just answered the question!!!
No one ever told those kids—and their parents—that first and foremost it’s supposed to be fun. I pity them.

[quote=“Zita Carno”]You just answered the question!!!
No one ever told those kids—and their parents—that first and foremost it’s supposed to be fun. I pity them.[/quote]

I was talking with a parent yesterday whose son wants to quit. Doesn’t like the pressure, the yelling, the long practices, being at the bottom of the line-up and looked down upon by the better players. It’s a shame. I coached him last fall, and the kid had more love for baseball than anyone else I’ve taught. Wasn’t the best player, but had drive, and loved baseball. The kid hasn’t hit puberty yet and is done with it. Who knows how he would have developed.

Is it really a problem? We do not have a problem fielding quality teams and players at that age group. Maybe the level of competition that is moving down to the lower age brackets is turning more rec leagues into competitive leagues.

Let’s face it, competitive sports takes hard work and weeds out those that don’t find enjoyment in the work reward relationship of athletics. If you do not want to put the work in you’re going to drop off. Or if the work isn’t paying off in playing time or being competitive than you will have a higher likelyhood of dropping off or moving on to something that does.

My nephew was always a stud in little league. As the fence moved back and the bases expanded he became a very good player but not the go to guy you had in the game no matter what. He slid down a bit in the batting order and lost playing time. The following year he quit baseball and started playing field hockey where he began to stand out again.

I am not sure there is anything wrong with that.

This isn’t the Sunday game of Mush ball at the family picnic.

I very much agree with the above poster.

I don’t want to come across wrong, but as the parent of an “A” player (as I’m told by people who know baseball, not my opinion) how much time should one spend trying to keep kids involved that honestly don’t have a future. Is it really a good idea to take playing time away from an A to keep B’s and C’s involved.

My son’s hitting coach talks to him about stone walls, and how they’re made to keep some out (the kids who don’t really want it), and how you have to be willing to do the work to bust through them.

Two biggest reasons I see:

  1. Overbearing / pressuring parent or parents
  2. Player dedcided to play another sport year round.

Parents are by far the biggest problem with little league sports. I have dealth with many yelling parents. If the conversation is done at the right time and place, it usually has a big impact.

If it does not work, and their son plays for me, the parents are told to sit down the outfield line, where no one can hear them. That or videoing them will get the job done. Just make sure you pick a big assistant coach to help you, lol.

I love this video…it reminds us that the sport is for the players and what they want and can gain out of baseball.

Parents, coaches, grandparents, everyone that has never played this game does not understand it is a game of failure. This sport teaches so much more about important things than just baseball. Life isn’t fair, your job isn’t fair, nothing is fair and all of the things have a success rate that for most is about like baseball. You succeed 1/3 of the time and you are happy and considered good. Nobody teaches kids at young ages to fail in this sport 2/3 of the time is just fine. Everyone wants success all of the time and a lot of people especially kids have a hard time with failure. I have seen many kids quit baseball in junior high and not play in high school only to see them playing on town teams or semi pro leagues later and be completely happy with the knowledge that it’s ok to be good 1/3 of the time!

Teach your kids how to win but also teach them how to fail gracefully.

Case in point: When I was in high school, way back when, we had a science teacher who would demonstrate various experiments for the class. Occasionally one such experiment would fizzle, and the teacher would shrug and comment philosophically "Oh well, it’ll work out better next time."
And no less a hitter than Ted Williams once said that most batters will fizzle 70% of the time. That leaves 30%, and they get their hits and drive in the runs, and no one complains about that. Except, of course, those parents and others who have never played the game—they expect the other way around from their kids, never once realizing that things don’t always work out as expected. And those parents and others who have never played the game don’t realize—or don’t want to—that we learn by making mistakes! 8)