Give youth sports back to the kids

What would happen if we simply disbanded all organized youth sports and forced kids to entertain themselves?

Today, Little League — the gateway drug for helicopter parents — stripped the national champions of their Little League title for doing what youth sports does far more often than meets the public eye — encourage adults to cheat, ruining things for kids who may just want to play some ball.

The team used ringers from the suburbs. In Chicago, nobody ever wins by playing by the rules.

“For more than 75 years, Little League has been an organization where fair play is valued over the importance of wins and losses,” said Mr. Stephen D. Keener, Little League International President and CEO.

The quote will continue after we give you time to clean up the coffee spewing out of your nose.

“This is a heartbreaking decision. What these players accomplished on the field and the memories and lessons they have learned during the Little League World Series tournament is something the kids can be proud of, but it is unfortunate that the actions of adults have led to this outcome. As our Little League operations staff learned of the many issues and actions that occurred over the course of 2014 and prior, as painful as this is, we feel it a necessary decision to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. No team can be allowed to attempt to strengthen its team by putting players on their roster that live outside their boundaries.”

It’s safe to say that whoever’s idea this was, it wasn’t the kids.

But, then again, the kids didn’t step forward to blow the whistle on the adults, either. So we don’t weep for the kids. And the parents were in on this scam, too. That’s hardly surprising.

“I know what they did and what they came from,” parent Nedra Jones tells the Chicago Tribune. “Actually, I’m upset and disappointed because now my son has the mad face because he feels like he did something wrong and he didn’t.”

Her point loses its moral standing with her first five words: “I know what they did.”

No, the withering criticism was reserved for Chris Janes, who blew the whistle on the cheaters.

“What I want to see is a public acknowledgement of wrongdoing,” Janes tells the Chicago Sun Times. “It’s Little League baseball — we should all be playing by the same rules. If one team is not playing by the same rules as everyone else, that’s not right.”

Little League cashes the paycheck from TV broadcasts of its World Series, further pushing down the win-at-all-costs mentality. So is anyone really surprised at the scandal?

Closer to home, Woodbury officials found out a few weeks ago what happens when you mess with the adults running youth leagues.

The city tried to rewrite the rules for establishing priorities for the use of city athletic fields, inserting language that if a coach (or player) is disciplined in one league (Woodbury has two youth athletic organizations because years ago unhappy adults split with the older Woodbury Athletic Association and formed a new group), he/she can’t move to another organization to escape the discipline. In essence, it makes discipline handed out in one league a city-wide ban.

The adults packed City Hall to protest, the Woodbury Bulletin reported. The provision seemed at least partially aimed at a coach who recruited kids.

The discipline provisions were dropped.

  • Jim G

    “What would happen if we simply disbanded all organized youth sports and forced kids to entertain themselves?”

    Here are some creative activities my friends came up with during the 50’s and 60’s

    1. Foot polo with mallets fashioned from 2 x 2’s. It really hurt when your brother missed the ball and whacked your shin.

    2. Making a toboggan run in a nearby park. It took days and lasted about 5 runs.

    3. Peashooter fights, or even more fun… shooting peas from a sniper roost at your neighbors vehicles as they drove down the street.

    4. We rode our bikes from an inner suburb to Shakopee without GPS and found our way back home.

    5. My favorite: inner-tube rifles shooting big elastic bands made from old inner-tubes. They were accurate to twenty feet and hurt like heck at close range.

    All these activities were done without adult supervision or permission. It was a wonderful childhood.

  • shleigh

    –Her point loses its moral standing with her first five words: “I know what they did.” —
    I first interpreted that as ‘I know what these kids accomplished’, as in all the practice and hard work and challenges they faced and all that jazz. I clicked through to the original article and it isn’t really clear to me what she was referring to. I guess it could be taken either way?

  • C. David Kearsley

    Bob Collins, and everyone else reporting on this story, need to do some more research on this subject, because if they did, they would know that when it comes to “fair play” as it applies to the 75 year history of Little League Baseball, Mr. Stephen D. Keener is being less than honest.

    For decades, Little League Baseball in the U.S. has been dominated by affluent, overwhelmingly (if not exclusively) White suburban “all-star” teams like the one from Mountain Ridge, NV. Anyone watching the Little League World series up until very recently knows that. Indeed, for as long as I could remember, the only diversity at the LLWS was provided by teams from outside the U.S., mostly from East Asia. And so, as soon as American inner city communities are able to organize talented teams and become ascendant in competition, the affluent suburban teams challenge the inner city teams’ pools of available players. “I’m shocked…shocked…”