Thinking out loud… There are several issues or comments worthy of mention today that fall under the umbrella topic of The Changing Culture of Amateur Baseball; but, what we are about to share with you is a lead-off topic, one of many.  It deals with “pay to play!”

Today, many parents are expending a lot of money ($) for their son, let’s call him Junior, to play on an organized team.  This applies more to summer baseball than school ball.  But, in many cases, school systems and their athletic teams are charging a fee for players to participate.  So what is the concern or issue you ask?  To me it deals with Playing Time.

Every parent demands and every player expects to be playing pretty close to every inning of every game….but, is this realistic?  To some, and for some, it is a genuine expectation.  They do everything to enhance their preparation to play: fromputting in a lot of practice time, to demonstrating maturity, to competitiveness, to exhibiting great skills that enhance their play.  In other words, they are giving it their “all” and have adequately prepared themselves to play.  Then, there are others who lack some of these necessary and important traits.  And, they too think that they should play as much as the guy who does prepare himself the right way.

So are parents realistic in their expectation?  Just because a parent(s) pays “x” amount for Junior to be on the team, IMHO, that does not translate into him playing all the time.  Of course, as stated, if he is prepared to compete then he should play.  But, if Junior misses practice (almost for whatever reason), doesn’t hustle, doesn’t work on improving his game, doesn’t blend with his teammates, etc., this is when problems begin.  And, this is when many parents show the “ugly” side in their personality or in talking with Junior’s coach.

So as stated previously and often, there is NO entitlement associated with playing time.  And, if parents insist on being enablers and over- protecting Junior or making excuses for his lack of hustle, lack of working out more, etc., then this team isn’t for him.  It is totally frustrating to hear about parents who have this attitude and Junior who likewise complains about lack of playing time.  We say this: one’s playing time is in direct proportion to his skill level, work ethic and attitude.  One thing parents really need to do before expending a huge amount of $ for their player to participate is to find out at the outset the coach’s rules, regulations, approach and practice schedule.  If it doesn’t work with the player and the parent’s time frame, values, etc., and is not a good mix, then this team is NOT for the player.  And, to go one step beyond – if the coach does not have practices to go along with games, we suggest that you definitely find another program.  For sure, you cannot get your money’s worth! Finding the proper blend or mix of practices and games guarantees a worthwhile (financial) expenditure.  And, it’s really the only way for Junior to grow – baseball wise.  So before complaining, criticizing and crying, do your homework as a parent.

You should know that baseball is just a microcosm of the real world and life; playing time should not be guaranteed and certainly should be in direct relation to what one does to adequately prepare.  Do the same thing as it relates to a job and the results speak for themselves. So the message to be learned is: practice hard, work hard and play hard. You can also insert the word smart with the work hard (not instead of work but with work) and strive for positive results!

And all players need to know everything that is stated above as it really applies to them.  Baseball is a game of failure, but the preparation and time put into being successful speaks volumes as to the end result – a positive experience and a lot of FUN….

So how does this issue of “Pay to Play” or just “Playing Time” tie into this notion of The Changing Culture….?  Here’s how. Amateur baseball prior to the 21st Century tried to recognize player achievement, player ability and playing time by going with those who earned it and giving them the most time.  It wasn’t all about equality as it relates to the higher levels of amateur ball.  As for the rec programs, that is another story (loosely defined – equal playing time). But for the more competitive teams participating in the more competitive organizations, playing time was earned not guaranteed. So that is why we state that today everybody (parents, players and coaches) needs to (re)evaluate the situation and decide if Junior is realistically participating in the right program and on the right ball club.  This is a huge issue and needs to be addressed in a very direct and even a professional way.

Good Luck with the process.  Remember, “there is no crying in baseball!”
Photo courtesy of Minda Haas Kuhlmann on Flickr: