Northwest NEWS

July 26, 1999


Concerns about Little League coaching

   I would like to voice some strong concerns about Sno-Valley North Little League All-Stars and the things that are going on.

   If kids are good enough to be selected to be on an all-star team, they should all be played equally. This is not what goes on at all.

   When we got the phone call to let us know that our son was chosen to play on the 12-year-old all-star team we thought that this would be a great experience and a lot of fun. We also heard good things about the coaches and managers that were picked, that they were fair and treated everyone equally.

   At the practices and even at the practice games they did exactly that; everyone played and had fun. There was no reason to think things would change, even though in the past I have heard from many parents how kids were benched and never played in any games or only played for one inning.

   I honestly thought that on this team, they all played well, so they should all play in the games. Not the case.

   The night before the game, all the parents were informed by the manager that they wanted to win at all cost. I thought that meant if someone made errors in the game they would be taken out and someone else would be put in to play. I was wrong.

   At the first game, my son was benched for the first four innings, then they put him in to bat, expecting him to hit after sitting and feeling that he wasn't good enough to play; he struck out. Nothing was said to him at all. He was benched for the rest of the game along with two other boys who only played one inning. We found out later that the only reason our son was able to bat was because of the rule that every kid has to play one inning or bat once.

   In this game, errors were made and runs were scored, but no one was taken out, and the same three boys sat on the bench. We lost the game on errors. At the second game, we thought that he would have a chance to play; we were wrong again. The same three boys sat on the bench for three innings.

   He went in at left field in the fourth, and after the three outs were made, he thought he would get a chance to bat when he saw his name on the board. But then when he looked again, it was gone. We won the game after the fourth inning because of the 10-run rule, so he never got his chance at bat.

   At the team meeting before the game, all the boys had been told by the manager that in the regular season, he usually does play everyone fairly. "We are going to win this, so we are going to keep the best players on the field at all times," he said.

   How is that supposed to make these three boys (who were so obviously singled out) feel? Remember, they were also chosen to play on this team. My son was hurt by this comment, but still decided to go to practice the next night, only to be treated worse.

   At the practice, kids were given positions to play to practice fielding. The coach said, "Anyone who doesn't have a position, get a helmet and do the base running." Guess who the boys were. At the other practices, they usually rotate all the kids; they all run bases and all get practice in the field.

   Not this time. Only those three boys ran. It was hot and they looked like they were going to drop. I was furious, but again, I was asked by my son not to say anything. The other parents who were there noticed what was going on and did not agree with what these coaches were doing. They felt these boys were being treated unfairly.

   We went to the third game pretty much expecting the same thing. Well, we were right. The same boys were on the bench, this time until the fifth. That was when our son was put in; he even got up to bat. He got a great hit, an RBI, but then he was left on second because some of the better batters struck out. In fact, in this game, I think almost all of those better players struck out at least once. They were told, "nice try, good cut, maybe next time."

   Both of the other boys in their one inning of play also got on base, and I think one even scored a run. But I guess it was not good enough. After that, all three were back on the bench for the last inning. No one could believe they were taken out ot the game.

   At the end of the game, my son, along with one of the other boys, quietly took off their jerseys and put them on the bench. The coaches acted like they did not know why.

   Please, they knew. Everyone knew why they quit.

   This letter is not intended to make any parent or the rest of the boys on this team feel that we think our son is better. We don't; we just feel that all of the boys were picked to play, and all of them are capable of making good plays as well as good hits, and all of them at some time may make even an error or strike out. All of the boys were all-stars, not just nine of them.

   Why does this go on? These coaches and all the other coaches that take this "winning at all costs" attitude sould be ashamed of themselves. They should also ask themselves, if this were their child being treated like this--and I am mostly referring to the comment about better players being on the field, and what happened at the practice--would they stand by and not say anything? I really don't think so.

   Kids have feelings, and these events and the way they are treated will affect them forever. I don't know if my son is going to play next year or not. I feel these coaches owe my son and the other boys an apology and should also be held accountable, not for benching my son and the other boys (we all know they followed the rules on that), but for the way they were treated and for the comments that made the boys feel they weren't good enough to help this team win.

   I know my son wanted to stay and play. Two of the boys asked him not to quit; he almost changed his mind because of them, but he couldn't go on to the next game or practice and be humilated again. My son and the other boy handled this with a lot of maturity, and we are very proud of him. We as parents need to change this; we pay for our kids to play. We like to watch, and of course it is a great feeling to win, but that is not the most important thing.

   I can only hope that in the future, for the sake of the kids that are picked for all-star teams, that these rules will be changed and all the kids given a chance to play. Also, I hope the coaches who are selected will respect all the kids and their feelings.

Tony & Leslie Berens, Carnation