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Little League - Playing To Win Vs. Player Development & Sportsmanship

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  • Little League - Playing To Win Vs. Player Development & Sportsmanship

    For many who manage or coach in Little League, their focus is on developing player's skills and teaching good sportsmanship.

    Yet, others "play to win."

    To me, part of the problem is that we keep scores in games and, at that end of each game, there is a winner and a loser. And, when you start to tally up those wins and losses, a standings develop. Even if your league says "there are no standings" for levels below the majors, the kids and coaches all know each other's records. As such, some people pay attention to wins and losses.

    Further, at the majors level, many league have playoffs at the end of the spring season. So, clearly, there, there's so focus on trying to win the championship. And, related, there's a "play to win" element.

    So, what's right? And, how are you supposed to approach these things, as a coach?

    Or, should Little League just do away with keeping score? And, then, there are no winners or losers and it takes away the "play to win" thing?

  • #2
    Originally posted by BBSG View Post
    For many who manage or coach in Little League, their focus is on developing player's skills and teaching good sportsmanship.

    Yet, others "play to win."

    To me, part of the problem is that we keep scores in games and, at that end of each game, there is a winner and a loser. And, when you start to tally up those wins and losses, a standings develop. Even if your league says "there are no standings" for levels below the majors, the kids and coaches all know each other's records. As such, some people pay attention to wins and losses.

    Further, at the majors level, many league have playoffs at the end of the spring season. So, clearly, there, there's so focus on trying to win the championship. And, related, there's a "play to win" element.

    So, what's right? And, how are you supposed to approach these things, as a coach?

    Or, should Little League just do away with keeping score? And, then, there are no winners or losers and it takes away the "play to win" thing?
    It's not a yes or no, win or develop, question... It's what age-appropriate.

    See attached:

    The Question of Winning - The Little League Coach.pdf

    If you PM me your Email... I'll send the book we used in our clinics.
    Last edited by Jake Patterson; 11-19-2013, 06:59 AM.
    "He who dares to teach, must never cease to learn."
    - John Cotton Dana (1856–1929) - Offered to many by L. Olson - Iowa (Teacher)
    Please read Baseball Fever Policy and Forum FAQ before posting.

    Comment


    • #3
      Jake - did you create that PDF?

      Comment


      • #4
        If you develop the skills, and you are playing at an appropriate level, the wins will come. IMO. You may not be dominant, but you should be able to get some wins.

        Comment


        • #5
          Teach them how to handle winning and losing early in their development. Somebody has to teach them before it's too late.
          "Thank you for repeating your opinion again for the umpteenth time, we had almost forgotten how important it is....to you. "

          Comment


          • #6
            I had this whole essay written about how my LL works and how it is important to develop vs 'win at all costs' with examples and explanations, but I scrapped it because it simply comes down to this....

            LL coaches should focus on developing all players regardless of skill level. This includes winning and losing (success and coming back from failure). However, those that focus on winning at all costs and refuse to teach the non-studs are a poison to baseball (and all youth sports). Sure, I would love to win a few championships, but more important to me is the player that signs up next year because he said he has so much fun and the parents thanking me and telling me their kid and themselves learned more baseball in one year than in all the years they have been participating.

            Its difficult sometimes to balance being competitive and allowing every player to contribute regardless of skill level. Some coaches don't even try. These coaches usually have several kids quit baseball and end up burning out their child. This usually results in the kid leaving the game in a few years (or playing only because their Dad insists it).

            I see it every year - some coach thinks he is the greatest manager of all time because his kid can hit far. He convinces a couple of parents of studs to help him coach. He drafts a few good players and a few bad players. He goes out and works only with his studs. He goes into games with a chip on his shoulder and wants to 10-run every team he faces. He plays his studs the whole game and his lesser players get the bare minimum playing time. The coaches look at these players as a cancer on the team and are just hoping that they quit so that they don't need to play them anymore.
            These managers end up winning the championship. But have server families pissed that their kid didn't learn anything and didn't contribute any more. Some quit or move to another league. Others just ask the league to never be put on this coaches team again.
            These coaches then take their studs and find the studs of the other teams and put together a Summer or Fall Ball team. They go play and usually get their rear-ends handed to them by more experienced teams and coaches. The team disbands and the coach tries it again the following year. After a year or two the coach hates managing because he has to have a team with a few "kids that should stay home playing X-Box" and takes his son to play travel ball or some other "competitive" league. His kid gets to high school and is a mediocre player, but the dad still thinks he's a stud and bad mouths the coaches and other players for not seeing the talent his kid has and starting him or batting him 4th in the order.

            What is the true shame of it all? The lesser talented players end up leaving, quitting, or not developing into decent players. It breaks my heart to hear players have quit because of a coach. If a player wants to leave because they don't have the passion for the game, that's fine. But they choose to leave because of the coach, well then I say the coach is the true cancer of the sport and not the kid on an 8 year old team.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by omg View Post
              Teach them how to handle winning and losing early in their development. Somebody has to teach them before it's too late.
              Most definitely - but there is a balance that all coaches should make. Especially at the early ages.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by jbolt_2000 View Post
                Most definitely - but there is a balance that all coaches should make. Especially at the early ages.
                Yes - winning does matter, you just can't let it come at the cost of making it the only thing that matters.

                The 8U team I coached this season had a game against the "stud" team of the league. The team was certainly more skilled than any of the others in the league. They practiced 3 times a week (in addition to games), usually on a field the head coach rented at a local academy. They had scrimmage games against 9U teams. Heck, the team parents even had matching t-shirts made up.

                You know what though... despite winning just about every game by mercy rule, those kids were miserable. Kids would cry on their way back to the dugout if they struck out. Players would throw a tantrum if they actually got out on a play. I watched one kid throw down his helmet and kick it across the infield when he was out on a grounder. (Same kid got the game ball because he had a couple of nice hits.)

                It was really sad to see. The kids were under so much pressure to win that actually enjoying the game was a foreign concept.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. Why do you play any game? To win, of course, but that doesn't (shouldn't?) get in the way of having fun and developing skills. If I can read into your question a bit, I think you were asking "Should winning at all costs get in the way of player development?" The answer to that is a resounding "No!"

                  Stop me if you've heard this one - coach has his stable of 9 regulars, never moves them in the field, doesn't alter the batting order, and spends most of his time reinforcing skills the kids already know rather than developing new ones throughout the season. Such "win at all costs" coaches are the precise reason I got into coaching. As someone stated, if you're doing things correctly as a coach and developing all players to be well-rounded the wins will come. Maybe not at the beginning of the season, but most certainly by the end. You'll also have the added benefit of players who are more well-rounded and have actually progressed skills-wise, setting them up for the next season.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jbolt_2000 View Post
                    I had this whole essay written about how my LL works and how it is important to develop vs 'win at all costs' with examples and explanations, but I scrapped it because it simply comes down to this....

                    LL coaches should focus on developing all players regardless of skill level. This includes winning and losing (success and coming back from failure). However, those that focus on winning at all costs and refuse to teach the non-studs are a poison to baseball (and all youth sports). Sure, I would love to win a few championships, but more important to me is the player that signs up next year because he said he has so much fun and the parents thanking me and telling me their kid and themselves learned more baseball in one year than in all the years they have been participating.

                    Its difficult sometimes to balance being competitive and allowing every player to contribute regardless of skill level. Some coaches don't even try. These coaches usually have several kids quit baseball and end up burning out their child. This usually results in the kid leaving the game in a few years (or playing only because their Dad insists it).

                    I see it every year - some coach thinks he is the greatest manager of all time because his kid can hit far. He convinces a couple of parents of studs to help him coach. He drafts a few good players and a few bad players. He goes out and works only with his studs. He goes into games with a chip on his shoulder and wants to 10-run every team he faces. He plays his studs the whole game and his lesser players get the bare minimum playing time. The coaches look at these players as a cancer on the team and are just hoping that they quit so that they don't need to play them anymore.
                    These managers end up winning the championship. But have server families pissed that their kid didn't learn anything and didn't contribute any more. Some quit or move to another league. Others just ask the league to never be put on this coaches team again.
                    These coaches then take their studs and find the studs of the other teams and put together a Summer or Fall Ball team. They go play and usually get their rear-ends handed to them by more experienced teams and coaches. The team disbands and the coach tries it again the following year. After a year or two the coach hates managing because he has to have a team with a few "kids that should stay home playing X-Box" and takes his son to play travel ball or some other "competitive" league. His kid gets to high school and is a mediocre player, but the dad still thinks he's a stud and bad mouths the coaches and other players for not seeing the talent his kid has and starting him or batting him 4th in the order.

                    What is the true shame of it all? The lesser talented players end up leaving, quitting, or not developing into decent players. It breaks my heart to hear players have quit because of a coach. If a player wants to leave because they don't have the passion for the game, that's fine. But they choose to leave because of the coach, well then I say the coach is the true cancer of the sport and not the kid on an 8 year old team.
                    Great post jbolt. Totally agree. I have never emphasized winning to the team, yet my teams are consistent winners. I always felt like focusing on the bottom half of the team was a secret weapon for me. Many guys are exactly as you state, they worry about the top 4 guys to the detriment of everyone else. For the kids at the bottom, in many cases it's the first time a coach has ever believed in them and hence I frequently get tremendous improvement out of those kids. It also results in great team spirit as everyone thinks they're important to the team, not just the top 4-5 guys. I can't tell you how many times my #10 or #11 player has come up with the big hit in the playoff game whereas for the other guys who emphasize winning, pretty much 9-12 are easy outs at the end of the year. Big surprise, the coaches didn't believe in them, didn't work with them, didn't give them a chance to develop. What else would they expect?

                    Lastly, I always feel my measure of success as a coach is not the wins and losses, but how many of my team members sign up again for baseball the next year. In that sense, I've been a very successful coach.

                    Great post - JJA
                    The outcome of our children is infinitely more important than the outcome of any game they will ever play

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'll add one more thing. By and large, coaches and parents care a lot more about the wins and losses than the kids do. The kids primarily want to have fun, and winning is usually secondary to having fun. Every now and then a player will tell me, "Coach, of course winning is the most important thing." I'll ask that player, "What would you rather do? Have us win the game 2-0 with you striking out three times, or us losing 8-6 and you slug two home runs?". I have NEVER had a player say they would rather win then hit two home runs (we're talking LL ages here). Thus, I always tell them "I guess winning isn't the most important thing, is it?".

                      Later, absolutely. But not in LL, my opinion.
                      The outcome of our children is infinitely more important than the outcome of any game they will ever play

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        What I noticed is the 1234 player dont need help, they are natural studs. 56 are on the edge. But if you can get the 789 to get better, decrease errors, of get a hit. Thats how a team wins.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by JJA View Post
                          The kids primarily want to have fun, and winning is usually secondary to having fun.
                          Here is a question, not just to you but to anybody:

                          Is it possible for the kids to be having fun on a team that doesn't win ANY games?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by JJA View Post
                            I'll add one more thing. By and large, coaches and parents care a lot more about the wins and losses than the kids do. The kids primarily want to have fun, and winning is usually secondary to having fun. Every now and then a player will tell me, "Coach, of course winning is the most important thing." I'll ask that player, "What would you rather do? Have us win the game 2-0 with you striking out three times, or us losing 8-6 and you slug two home runs?". I have NEVER had a player say they would rather win then hit two home runs (we're talking LL ages here). Thus, I always tell them "I guess winning isn't the most important thing, is it?".

                            Later, absolutely. But not in LL, my opinion.
                            Its funny you mention this. My second year assisting a Farm team, just before becoming a manager, about 8 years ago, we took second place in the championship game. I managed many of the kids on both teams throughout the following years and every now and then I ask them about what they think of it. On both sides (the players that won and those that lost) say the same thing. They don't feel any more special or less special because of the outcome of the game. What they remember, the memories they took from it, are the few outstanding plays. The diving stop and throw to first. The double they got. The slide into home. Not one of the kids express their disappointment in losing or their gratitude in winning. Its not even brought up about who one or lost. Its always, "yeah that was a fun season I remember this hit" or "that play."

                            But ask the parents and some don't care anymore, but some will tell you about how we got shafted because the umpire was friends with the other coach or how the other team was stacked, etc...


                            I remind my parents/players at our parent meeting every year that its not the destination but the journey that matters. Don't worry about the wins and losses, worry about the progression. Is your kid getting better and enjoying the game? If yes, then we have succeeded.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by bbrages View Post
                              Here is a question, not just to you but to anybody:

                              Is it possible for the kids to be having fun on a team that doesn't win ANY games?
                              It completely depends on the coach. If the coach makes practice fun, is encouraging, and lets the players play and hit in positions they normally don't, they can have a blast. My 5-6 y/o machine pitch team was this way. They played a different position and hit in a different spot in the order every game. They had a great time and it was fun to watch what the kids would do if you give them a chance.

                              I'll take a team full of kids with great attitudes and a willingness to work that loses 90% of their games over a team of kids that have talent but won't try hard. I can't stand lazy.

                              Comment

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