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Little League sending mixed signals with All-Stars

I am willing to bet you one of those yummy Burgerville shakes that someone on your block is involved with Little League baseball/softball. It is estimated that more than 50 million kids in the United States and 100 million kids worldwide play Little League. It is also incredibly popular in Clark County which boasts two of Washington’s 14 Little League districts.

This is the time of year when Little Leagues all over the county, state, nation and world begin gearing up for “tournament play” or more commonly known as All-Stars. I have participated in All-Stars as a player, a coach, a parent and as a board member. I have even written a process for one of our leagues to follow for All-Star selections. Which makes me as qualified as any to say that the All-Star concept sort of contradicts what Little League is all about.

What is Little League about? Glad you asked… Little League prides itself on providing a safe place for all players to play the game of baseball or softball. Each player must play a minimum amount of innings each game and bat a minimum amount of times, and pushes the player experience so much that one of its rules is parents or coaches cannot play catch with the kids (kids should play catch with kids so they are increasing the amount of repetitions). Simply put, every kid regardless of ability gets a chance to play.

Before I dive into why All-Stars is contradictory to this, a short background first. There are several divisions of All-Stars in both baseball and softball from the under 10 division all the way up to the under 18 division. Teams usually represent a league and compete against leagues in their own district and then the state. For those U12 and higher you can progress past state to regionals and the World Series. Players (and coaches) are usually selected by a combination of votes from their peers, their coaches and their board members. While some kids get to experience the sheer joy of being selected others feel the disappointment and one of the toughest things I had to do as a Little League coach was tell a kid why he didn’t make the All-Star team.

There are kids who play on travel teams who merely play just enough Little League games to be eligible to play All-Stars and there are even some leagues who field teams that play in tournaments more or less selecting the All-Stars before the Little League season even starts. And I don’t even want to get into the politics and ugly side of parents that rears its head when it comes to these All-Star teams.

Sure, some leagues try to continue with the concept of equal play when it comes to All-Star teams and fields a team of kids just so they can get the experience of being an All-Star. The problem? A lot of times these teams get steamrolled by another league’s elite players. This happened to a team I was coaching and three kids from that team never played baseball in our league again because of it.

So, back to the question… what is Little League truly about? Is it about the regular season portion, where all kids get to take part? Or is it about the tournament or All-Star portion where a select few get to play and a lot of kids walk away with hurt feelings.

My thought? Do away with the “tournament” or All-Star teams and have your regular season and then have a “postseason” where regular-season teams play in a league tournament with the winner of that going on to face the top teams from other leagues in the district tournament, state tournament, regional and World Series (the Little League World Series is one of my favorite all-time sporting events). No selection process, no shunning of kids and for those who are overly concerned about who’s the best can find out on the field.  Sure, there comes a time in everyone’s life where they will be told they aren’t good enough, but Little League shouldn’t be the place to do it. Keep it about the kids, keep it about baseball, keep it about what’s on the field, and keep it fun.

Paul Williams

I am a sports nut who has tried to make the transition from athlete to athletic....err....supporter of my two children and their athletic endeavours. I am also a former sports reporter for The Arlington Times, Marysville Globe, The Skagit Argus and The Coeur d'Alene Press. Follow me on Facebook or on Twitter (@PDub4170).

6 comments on “Little League sending mixed signals with All-Stars
  1. This particular article is surely worth looking through. Although we could possibly have a number of differences when it involves our thoughts and opinions, i respect what you are telling in this particular blog post. An incredible read!

  2. AvatarJohn on said:

    I just stumbled across this blog post today nearly a year later, but the topic is still timely.

    My son has played Little League for the past seven years. To be honest he wasn’t very good in the beginning. When he was oldest enough to qualify for All Stars he didn’t make it the first two years. Sure, he was disappointed, but he continued to bust his rear in the off-season and finally made the team last year. This year is his last season playing on the small field and he hopes to make the All Star team again.

    The blogger says, “Keep it about the kids, keep it about baseball, keep it about what’s on the field, and keep it fun.” I’m here to tell you (as a coach and a parent): it’s about all of that. But it’s also about helping young boys become young men. It’s about developing work ethic and persevering. “Having fun” is about excelling and being the best you can at whatever you do.

    So what has All Stars taught my son? Nobody’s going to give you anything in life. You have to set goals and dedicate yourself to achieve them. If you fall down, pick yourself back up and keep forging ahead. Once you reach a goal, don’t become complacent. Set new goals and always keep striving, pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.

  3. AvatarCharlie on said:

    This year we had a coach with his son on the team. Well the son can’t hit nor field. For some reason He choosed the coaches son over my kid who helped the team a lot. He played 2nd base and tried a catcher and doing well. For some reason the main coach picked that coaches son because of favortitism.

  4. AvatarLynn Martin on said:

    Little League, like any other youth sport, should provide young people with the opportunity to develop to the extent of their desire for the game. It should not be a baby sitter service for parent convenience, or a place where parents re-live their childhood. Sports are competitive. Let your child compete, and assist where Your abilities will allow.

  5. My son played 5 seasons of LL and now plays travel ball. During that time, I saw a consistent pattern of only sons of managers and coaches were selected to be on the All Star teams. Managers and coaches are always those on the board of directors or their wives serving on the board or committees. Rarely that you would see a new face given the opportunity. Same goes with board members and how they are selected.

    Many more talented kids were left off. This resulted in the AS teams getting booted out of the tourney early every year. LL is a good thing for kids to learn the game and to have fun. However often, it is the parents who want to take over that fun, creating feuds and dramas for their own satisfaction.

    The conclusion is that very few if any LL players make their high school teams.

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