I had several goals going into our Fall After School program. First, I wanted to establish a repeatable program over seven weeks that we could repeat at any school. Second, I wanted to establish a program that wasn’t centered on babysitting, as most after-school programs are structured. I wanted to establish a program centered around baseball; but one where hard work, persistence, focus, and effort were teaching points not solely about baseball, but about life. Lastly, I was looking for kids that were interested in the game that we could then push to other programs outside of the school where they could continue their development; but where they could attend on scholarship. I knew I would find them; but was only expecting to find 3-5 kids.
I’ll address other findings from the program; but want to solely focus this post on the talent that is not playing baseball. Of the 64 kids (kids in grades 3-5) we worked with during the program, NONE of them currently play organized baseball or softball. But, we ended the program with 12-14 kids interested in continuing their development outside the school. Of those 12-14 kids, two could immediately step into a starting role for a Rec team and likely many travel teams. Of the remaining 10-12, they aren’t too far off, and with a sustained effort over a period of time, I believe at least half of them would shine.
So why aren’t these kids playing organized baseball? It’s simple…MONEY and COACHING. They do not have the finances to play on a travel team and the vast majority of coaches at the Rec level wouldn’t be able to provide the level of coaching to not just build their skills, but they wouldn’t be able to motivate the kids to stay in the game.
This is not just a problem for youth baseball; but a problem for all sports and a BIG problem for the youth. I have never been shy about saying how much baseball has impacted my life. I went to a great school (Wake Forest University); but what I find using the most is the education I received training for and playing baseball. What you know doesn’t mean much if you’re lazy; or if you can’t handle failure; or if you can’t effectively work within a team structure.
For many of these kids at the schools where we are providing our program, they need sports. They need the opportunity to excel at something that could possibly help pave a road for them that currently doesn’t exist. But, if the cost to participate is too high, they will never get the chance. Or, if the instruction can’t help them develop their skills and keep them in the game, they won’t see the benefits of sports.
I laughed at a tweet I saw earlier today where a Director of Youth Development for a highly reputable organization said that they had great discussions at a conference pertaining to youth sports and how they believe they are on the right track to improving youth baseball and the experience for kids. I’m not sure what was discussed at that meeting; but I’m sure the end result isn’t going to make a dent in youth sports.
For me its simple. Find an individual or individuals that SINCERELY WANT to make an impact. Put them in front of the kids and let them go to work. Forget about player to coach ratio. Just get out of their way and let them do their thing. IT’S NOT HARD! All it takes is one…just ONE individual that truly cares and you’ll begin to see an improvement in youth sports; but more important, you’ll see an improvement in the youth community.