Tuesday, July 8

That's Right Lil' Ricky, You're Just as Bad as Everyone Else

An article was brought to my attention via Deadspin. It states that Beachwood, Ohio is canceling their Little League All-Star games on the heels of a letter written by Fred Engh. In his letter, Engh states that choosing certain youngsters for All-Star teams hurts other kid’s self-esteem. He goes on to plead for people to take an initiative and ban the teams in youth sports nationwide. It seems Beachwood got the message.

I played baseball into my teens and never once made an All-Star team. This was mainly due to my lack of hitting prowess, and general average caliber of my play. I was not a poor player, I could field well, and get on base easily enough. There were a few seasons where, in my mind at least I felt I deserved a spot on the All-Star roster. In both of those situations I was passed over and a son of the head coach made it on. Engh addresses this in his letter:

“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.”

Here I have to agree with him and anyone who has played a youth sport knows this to be true. The coach’s son gets to play the most, in the best position and is selected to the All-Star team if one exists for that sport. This unfortunate fact of life is disappointing but not nearly enough of a justification for eradicating the All-Star selection altogether. If a reform in the selection of the team is called for with regard to nepotism, I whole-heartedly agree.

However, it is the intention of Engh to eliminate the process entirely. He points to the fragile egos of our nations youth:

“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.”

Well in case the nation’s youth is not aware I will alert them: there are people in this world that are…get ready for it…BETTER than YOU in certain areas. I know, it’s a tough reality to face, but welcome to reality kids. When our nation’s youth are learning to walk, recite their ABCs, write our language, nothing is more important than confidence and encouragement. But this is sports, and these kids are maturing and preparing for adulthood.

When a young man enters the world after high school or college, if he hasn’t already learned that life is unfair and that others will have advantages he doesn’t he will quickly do so. I think Mr. Engh believes by sheltering these youth from the “embarrassment” of not making an All-Star team will somehow preserve their faith in themselves. If it takes that to hold a kids confidence, how will he fair on job interviews, or yet, how will that prepare him for his future in sports? As early as high school, kids get cut from the team, a plain and simple fact of life.

Engh writes: “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.”

Well Mr. Engh that is why every kid gets the cheap, glossy trophy. I’m sure if you played youth sports you have a nice little collection of them. That is a chance for each child to be recognized, and feel special.

The problem with the youth in this country is that they are not being prepared for life. It is important for kids to feel appreciated, loved, and special in their own way. But at the same time, they have to become tough mentally and prepared for what they will face in the world. A common phrase is “if I only knew then what I know now”, well its our duty to give our children as much knowledge when they are young so they have an advantage when they grow up.

Attempting to stick mainly to sports here, my point is that the success of sports in our culture is the competition. We cheer the great teams we see and acknowledge the ability of certain stars to rise above the competition. We have standards, and those who achieve the best in those standards are recognized. So if you have a kid that is not good enough for the All-Star team it is your job to explain why and tell him that it does not mean he is no good, but that you are still proud of him. If the kid can’t handle it, then there are larger problems than sports looming.

Fred Engh is the CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports. Is this the person we want having a national say in our youth sports? These kids in Beachwood, Ohio, in a region more ravaged by the leaving of industry in our country than any other, when they reach adulthood will they be benefited by being told that they are all special snowflakes and it doesn’t matter how good you are, you don’t have to be better than anyone else, or should they get a reality check now?

Sports are the best opportunity for kids to learn how life works. Attempting to fix it by eliminating the competition does nothing but dull the kids to the competition they will face.

Beachwood, Ohio Cancels Little League All-Star Game to Boost Self-Esteem of Players, Retroactively Surrenders to Germans [Deadspin]

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