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Little League World Series – It’s Not the Real World Series. Calm Down!

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When I was a little kid, I loved playing baseball. The smell of the freshly cut grass, sunflower seeds, and a day at the ball park were enough to excite me beyond anything else. And while the early morning hours weren’t exactly at my peak activity hours, you could count on me  getting up early every Saturday morning to get ready for the weekly game. Simply put, there was something magical about little league games for me.

Nowadays, though, it seems as if some of the magic has been taken out of the game. A prime example of what I am talking about happened last night during a Little League World Series game. In the Northwest Regional Championship game, Lake Oswego, Oregon took on Kent, Washington. These two teams had met previously in a game thouroughly dominated by Kent. The game started as most do in these tournaments – both pitchers were throwing heat and dominating the opposing hitters. Then, in the 2nd inning, the Kent pitcher gave up a solo home run. Up until that point, he had recorded somewhere in the ball park of 4-5 stikeouts. He ended the game with upwards of 10 strikeouts, giving up a meager 3 runs. Yet, despite his stellar performance, he began tearing up with every hit or run Lake Oswego produced.

Another example happened in the same game. After having had two solid at-bats, a Lake Oswego player struck out on his thrid attempt. He, too, began to cry, even though his team was winning. One would think that having a .667 batting average in a vicotry would be cause for praise. However, as evident from the aforementioned examples, that is not the case. In both cases, each player was so broken up by minimal mistakes that he began to cry. But why? Why should a player get so upset over such a little thing as making one minor mistake? The answer – Pressure. These young boys are put under a tremendous amount of pressure. Because they are gifted athletically for their age, these players simply destroy the competition during their little league careers. They begin to develop a history of winning. When that happens, anything else is unacceptable. Winning, not the game, becomes the main objective, the driving force. However, for the most part, the kids are not the ones who yearn for victory. They simply want to play ball. The parents and the coaches, on the other hand, who seem to relive their glory days vicariously through their children, need the “W” and are wholeheartedly disappointed when they don’t get it. Believe me, I’ve been there. Overly-critical coaches are the main reason I stopped playing baseball, even though I too played on the all-star team.

We need to remember that baseball is just a game for kids. Whereas the lucky few who find their way to the professional baseball ranks should expect criticism, little leaguers should not. They don’t get paid for playing baseball. The American mentality of winning is a must and second place is the first loser has created a situation in which young boys are subjected to pressure for which they have not been prepared. The result - cry babies crop up every game, terrified of what their coaches or parents might think if they make a mistake. Seriously, baseball is just a game. We need to calm down a little bit and realize that the Little Leauge World Series is not the real World Series. After all, Little League baseball is for kids, not parents.

Nishan Wilde is VP of Sales at Robbins Sports and Athletics, an online resources for Basketball Uniforms.