Hey Society! Let the Kid Play!

William QualkinbushSenior Analyst IAugust 26, 2008

Doing my usual morning perusal of the ESPN.com headlines, I discovered an article that made me want to throw up all over political correctness.

The Youth Baseball League of New Haven, CT has banned nine-year-old pitcher Jericho Scott and threatened to disband his team.

Why? This preteen didn't throw at a batter's head. He didn't start a bench-clearing brawl. He didn't backtalk a coach or umpire. He didn't get into an altercation with a teammate. Heck, the kid didn't even make bad grades.

No, the Youth Baseball League of New Haven banned little Jericho Scott from pitching because he was too good. Period.

This kid can throw upwards of 40 miles per hour before his tenth birthday. He throws the baseball so hard and so well that the league deemed that Jericho's pitching style posed a physical threat to some of the younger players, although according to his coach, Jericho has not hit a single batter this year.

Two games after the league banned Jericho from taking the mound, his coach put him back out therewhich, to be clear, probably wasn't the brightest move. But why wouldn't he? The kid is unhittable and he gives the rest of the team their best chance to win the ballgame.

So what does the opposing coach do when he sees this rugrat begin to warm up? He walks his team off the field and forfeits the game, proving to his team that the logical response to challenges in life is to back down and quit.

Now, there may be other motives for the league's decision; one report suggests that Jericho declined an invitation to play for a team that is run by the employer of a league official (To be clear, if this is in fact a case of retribution, it would be a perversion of youth sports to the highest degree).

But the question remains: Aren't youth sports supposed to teach kids values that will help them in life? Aren't our youth supposed to experience adversity and learn how to overcome it? Aren't we pushing our kids to be great in whatever they do?

Apparently the Youth Baseball League in New Haven missed that memo. Apparently it is now par for the course to penalize kids for being too good.

I understand that winning isn't the only goal of youth sports. As a coach, I know that it is about teaching, coaching, and giving your kids an opportunity to succeed. But when I was growing up, I realized that it is not fun to lose. And it is exhilarating to win.

When I was 10, I played on a baseball team that went 0-16. It was the worst sports experience of my life. The coaches were incompetent and didn't put kids in positions to be successful.  They didn't care a lick about winning, and the team wasn't motivated to go out and win. I hated it.

On the flip side, my younger brother, then an 8-year-old, played on a team that went 18-1 and won the league championship that very same year. He learned a great deal about playing the game the right way and his team enjoyed success. That season, among others, has led to him receiving interest from several programs about playing collegiate baseball.

No, we shouldn't exploit kids just for wins and losses. No, winning isn't the most important thing. No, we shouldn't wear a kid's arm out just because he can throw harder than anyone can swing.

But we should not sacrifice the greatness of our kids because some don't quite measure up. And we should certainly not show the ones facing the Jericho Scotts of the world that the way to solve your problems is to have them removed, not to face them.

American youth sports programs are quickly becoming controlled by people who desire to take the competitive nature out of baseball, basketball, football, soccer, field hockey ,and whatever else kids might become involved in.

It's frustrating that the values of hard work, dedication, perseverance, mental and physical toughness, teamwork, and the will to win that I learned growing up are falling by the wayside so that kids can "feel good about themselves."

The best feelings I have had in my life are times when I triumphed over the odds, when I accomplished something extraordinary, when I faced an obstacle and overcame it. America's youth today are told that it doesn't matter how big the mountain is, you can always find a way around it.

I say, let the kid play. And show the others how to scale the mountain.