RECREATION TEAM OR MOVE ON TO TRAVELING BASEBALL FOR 8 YEAR OLD?

Hey Coach. I have a talented and driven 8 year old who has played baseball for the last three years in a local rec league. I am starting to be approached by coaches from more serious teams and leagues offering for him to play. He really likes where he is at but I am becoming increasingly concerned with him playing on teams with a mixed bag of kids who are not interested, disruptive, or new to to baseball. I feel that it would be a better environment for him if he were surrounded by kids who have the same passion and skill levels as he does. Is it too early to be worrying about this and stay put or would I be passing up a good opportunity and experience? Thank you for your thoughts.

COACH HENZE’S ANSWER

This is a very good question and one that I can’t give you a definitive answer…

First of all, my overall feeling of traveling leagues or clubs for 8 year old is that it is ridiculous. I am not saying that there aren’t some kids that really want to play at a higher (more serious) level, but there definitely aren’t enough of them in a community to house an entire league. I feel that much of that is driven by parents and other adults. The kid is 8 years old…

The goal for every 8 year old should be teaching him the BASIC concepts about baseball and really making the game fun. Even if the kid is wanting to play at a higher level, it is the parent’s job to know if this is a good fit for him… What happens if he gets on a team where the coach doesn’t teach the basics, doesn’t know how to allow the kids to have fun, or is too focused on winning instead of teaching (these are real concerns)???

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As an 8 year old, he is in first grade and probably really wants to play with his friends which won’t happen if he plays on an elite team of some sort. Again, he loses out on those fun experiences and doesn’t have that “connection” with teammates when they talk about the games at school.

If an 8 year old is very athletic and good, he will still be that athletic and good in a couple years. In my opinion, you are TOTALLY safe by keeping in his rec league. However, if you choose to allow/make him play in the elite league, he may have a bad experience and he may feel too much pressure and he may start not liking the game as much in the future…

I guess, if it was my kid, I would error on the side of caution and continue to let him play with friends… Lastly, I have a problem with coaches that are “contacting” 8 year old’s parents about playing on their top level teams… Do you really want your kid to start that “recruiting” process now?

To finish… I am totally grateful that you are asking me this question on my site and want you to know that I am respectfully telling you my opinion. I am not trying to offend you or anyone. I am simply stating my opinion that I don’t feel 8 year olds should be, as a whole, playing traveling/high level/elite baseball. They should simply be learning the game an having fun!

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