Unbullyable™ – The Toys of Summer, Part 1 – The Brand X Method

Unbullyable™ – The Toys of Summer, Part 1


Unbullyable™ – The Toys of Summer, Part 1

Remember about a year ago, I served up this ceaseless rant about youth baseball? Somewhere in that delightful gambol I left a titillating Game of Thrones-caliber cliffhanger about what I would decide for the Squid should the rec league come calling about the 2016 end-of-year all-star tournament.

PONY Baseball rules allow age-eligible high school players to return for 14U all-stars. The logic is that because these kids were unable to play in rec league owing to their participation on the high school team, they should be allowed to represent their local league as all-stars (it’s taken for granted that all high school players perform at an all-star level regardless of their high school performance). Last year, these kids were asked to shell out $1 (+ uniform costs, maybe tournament fees) to buy a spot on the 14U team without playing a single rec league game. I thought it was bullshit for obvious reasons, symptomatic of the youth sports malaise, and told my kid that, if he made the high school team the following year, there was no way I would allow him to be a part of an unearned and so very ephemeral “glory grab.” He seemed to understand my position.

I received a voicemail a couple weeks ago asking if the Squid was interested in joining the 14U team. Minutes later I received a text with the same query. I texted the coach back and said thanks, but we’re going to pass. Left it at that. Got a follow-up text from the coach: if you change your mind, it’s only $5 (inflation I suppose) yada yada yada. So I explained why the Squid wouldn’t be participating, but thanks again for thinking of him. Soon after I tapped “send” I received a second voicemail. And in case you’re sensing a pattern, you are correct, I’m not a fan of talking on the phone—not sure why other than I’m uptight and weird. However, my wife made me call the coach back (because she’s mostly normal, except for that part where she married me).

So the coach and I chatted. Let me be clear: he’s a good guy. Always been friendly to me (which can be trying, I hear). Always been a strong supporter of the Squid. He’s volunteered his time to coach baseball, basketball, and soccer for as long as his son’s been playing sports. And here was his case for why I should reconsider:

  • All of the other eligible high school players as well as others from the Squid’s 2015 all-star team are returning.
  • The Squid has a chance to represent Ramona PONY Baseball in his last year of eligibility.
  • The fun experience would create a fond memory for the Squid.
  • Sometimes parents have an obligation to decide what is best for their kids.
  • The $200+ league registration fee doesn’t guarantee selection to the all-star team.
  • The 13-14 division doesn’t have enough bona fide 14-year-old all-stars, that is, kids with all-star experience, to field a competitive team.

When I asked why the league didn’t put together a combined 13-14 team, he said the 13-year-olds weren’t good enough to compete against 14-year-olds. A week later, I received yet another text from the coach giving me one last chance before the roster was finalized. I politely declined.

I know the coach is well-intentioned. Does he make a point? Am I shutting the door on a cherished memory for my son? Am I denying him a chance to step up and represent? To have fun? Isn’t that the youth sports brass ring? Fun? Am I off base on this? Am I making a principled stand on a sanctimonious pile of meritless bullshit?

I guess I don’t think so, and next time, I’ll see if I can sift through my pile and tease out some merit.

6 Responses

  1. Mike

    You’re the parent legally looking out, and making decisions, for his best interest until he’s 18, thereafter because you love him, sorry for using the ” L ” word coach. You didn’t mention,(if you did i missed it, no surprise there right) if you asked him if he wanted to participate? just wondering

  2. Dan Edelman

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for reading. I did ask my son how he felt about participating. He wasn’t interested in returning to the team for a number of reasons. That certainly made the decision easier if only because there was no conflict; I wasn’t going to let him participate regardless.

  3. Dan Edelman

    Hey Chris,
    Long time, no talk. I’ve seen that South Park episode; that show is often spot on… To address one comment you made–this particular issue was not up to him. Even had he wanted to play, I wasn’t going to let him, but he understood my position and as I said above, he wasn’t keen on it anyway. He’s played many years of all-star tournaments and some pretty high-end travel baseball tournaments, so this situation held no allure. His focus is on high school sports now, and that strikes me as A-OK,

  4. One of the things you hear parents say in defense of putting their children in year round sports is, “kids learn so many character lessons that they cannot learn anywhere else.” (Let’s put aside that the youth sports of today resembles little the cherished memories of the parents) It seems to me that the important character lesson here is being taught by not playing.


      Jeff, I still agree with that statement. Team sports teach you some things that individual sports or clubs never can. I had a long email conversation with Dan about that a few months ago.

      As for the year-round sports thing, it’s a great tool if it’s used well. Like Dan has written about, if it’s not then it can ruin a lot for a kid and his/her parents. Sometimes you get lucky enough to find a great program and sometimes you don’t. Bottom line is, like my dad always said, there just aren’t a lot of great coaches at this level – or even high school, really. If you really a great coach, wouldn’t you most likely be coaching in college? Usually it’s parents doing it in their free time, or someone’s side job.

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