Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Prepubescent Delusion Rule: Let Them Have Fun!

A repost of an article I wrote in 2008. Now after 8 years only 3 out of the 12 kids on my 9U travel team are playing high school ball.  Most of the team played until they were 13 then moved on  to other areas of interest such as music, art, other sports....  The lesson holds true...  Let them have fun while they can!

We’re all guilty of it. That moment when your prepubescent child makes a fabulous defensive play or hits a clutch ground rule double (just like Jeter) and the thought enters your mind… “Hey, Maybe This Kid Has Something”.

It’s so easy to be lead down this path. We’re parents. We want our kids to be happy, smart, successful, handsome, athletic, etc, etc. So when our 10 year shortstop dives and makes the defensive grab of the game we can’t help but have proud parental thoughts.

Now most of us keep these parental thoughts to ourselves which IMHO is the correct thing to do. However, some of us might elbow the dad next to us and say something like “WOW! Did you see that play. When he was 7 I knew the kid had something”. This is the parent that needs to WAKE UP!!...QUICKLY!

A friend of mine who coaches one of the best high school teams in our state gave me the greatest advice I could have ever received when I first started coaching my sons… He said “Any parent or coach who thinks they know what a kid is capable of before he or she goes through puberty is completely delusional”. I have used this as guiding words since I first heard them. When I watch the 11 year hold who can hardly reach 1st from 3rd base I say to myself… “wait until puberty”. When I see the small 10 year old who can hardly swing the -13 bat I say to myself… “wait until puberty”. Conversely when I witness the 12 year old who overpowers his peers with his 50’ fast ball I say to myself… well you know the mantra by now.

A few years back I decided to manage my son’s 9 year old travel team. It was a great group of kids. We won our share of games and actually managed to finish 2nd in a pretty large local tournament. The kids had a great time and learn a lot about the game…. anyway I digress… I remember while we were warming up the kids prior to our first game that season a dad I had asked to coach said to me in all sincerity “Coach, These are the boys we’ll be watching play high school baseball someday”. Luckily this was after my high school coach friend had enlightened me about the prepubescent delusion rule. I remember thinking “We have no idea what genetic cards have been dealt to these kids.” However, I simply replied “time will tell”.

Now it’s 5 years later and only 7 of the 12 are still playing baseball at 14 years old. Lacrosse stole away 3 of the kids and 2 others sadly decided not to play baseball. Of the 7 remaining, only 3 were fortunate enough to make the 8th grade baseball team. This is a real life example of why coaches and parents cannot and should not try to determine the athletic future of a 9 year old kid.

Now take the 10 year old all-star player, pitcher, shortstop, powerhitter, speedster. He’s 4 inches taller than his peers, knocking the ball out of the park every three games. This kid is destined to be a high school/college star right? Not necessarily. How about after his teammates go through puberty and catch up or even pass him in size, strength and coordination? This happens… all the time.

So.. what’s the lesson? While there are some attributes a child may show at a young age which might lend themselves to a particular sport.. all bets are off until the kid goes through puberty. Parents and Coaches who understand and adopt this philosophy will be more comfortable with providing a loose and fun baseball environment for their young player.

Coach Bob


Jesse Gruber said...

Great post sir! We all need to remember that this is just a game and to have fun with it. Parents need not take it so personal. I have some tips for youth I like to enforce on the young baseball fan.

The Gulbransen Family said...

As a coach myself...couldn't agree more. The current youth baseball systems that value this early success completely discount your POV. It's sad and unfortunate. Most kids only play until they're 13-14. Let's make it fun and full of learning so they look back fondly. Thanks again for a great post.

All Hustle Baseball said...

Definitely agree. I can only imagine how hard it would be to find a professional or even college ball player who hates playing baseball. I personally play on a college team and for everyone on my team I know that baseball is their way to forget about all the stressful things happening in their lives. I hated baseball until I was around 12. It was a very sudden change for me; I joined a team and that worked their asses off and had fun and I saw how my hard work was paying off, but most importantly, I was having fun while I was practicing so it wasn't a chore.

I write in a blog and I posted one about what college coaches are looking for and believe it or not, I'd say at least half or even more is not skill based. They can see who will be successful based on whether or not they love the game.