Every year I both look forward to and dread watching ESPN’s coverage of the Little League World Series. I look forward to it because there is a lot of good in Little League baseball. I dread it because there are things that are not in line with my Hustle & Attitude philosophy. And, don’t get me started when things get ugly. Let me explain:
- The Good – Little League baseball is a recreational sport; that is, every child that signs up gets to play. There are no tryouts or cuts. Further, Little League baseball has rules about minimum playing time for each athlete. Finally, Little League baseball has mandatory rest for young pitchers based on the number of pitches they throw. The organization does a great job of allowing children the opportunity to participate in baseball games.
- The Bad – Curveballs! Experts suggest that 11-13 year old athletes should not throw curveballs due to the potential for injury (CNN article on curveballs and Little League, American Sports Medicine Institute (AMSI) Position Statement). Yet, almost every game, the announcers are raving about the breaking pitches these young men are throwing. Another thing that I think is unfortunate is the cameras covering the athletes after a loss. These are pre-teen children who are now on live television – with all the corresponding pressures – and when they lose, we see just how young they are. I don’t believe 11-13 year-olds ought to compete in televised national tournaments.
- The Ugly – Too many times recently, and for various reasons, adults have made decisions that fly in the face of good sportsmanship and fair play with respect to Little League. The Jackie Robinson West Little League scandal from last year and just this week with the Little League Softball World Series ‘tanking’ incident. This is almost the worst thing that could happen in youth sports of any kind – when an adult makes a decision or gives direction that ruins a young athlete’s sports experience.