I like ESPN's Jay Bilas. I tend to agree with a lot of what he says. But Bilas's logic fails on the "every kid plays three innings" line. That isn't about making kids feel good. It is about letting young players develop.
I like ESPN's Jay Bilas. I tend to agree with a lot of what he says. But he went too for with an analogy this week.
He was on the radio and talking about how the world had changed, and not for the better. He was arguing about why anyone would think the idea to have 96 teams in the NCAA tournament –– instead of 68 –– would be a good idea. He made the point that if everyone gets in, it takes away from the accomplishment of making the tournament.
"It's like every kid gets a trophy now, and everyone has to play three innings," Bilas said.
I get the point, but he went too far. Every kid getting a trophy doesn't make a lot of sense. The kids all know that they didn't earn the trophy. You shouldn't get a trophy just for going to practice a few times during the year.
My son has a pile of "participant" trophies, and he's never "won" anything. I don't think he would have enjoyed the season any less if that trophy were not there.
I have also argued against having 25 valedictorians at every high school graduation because colleges offer valedictorian scholarships and school administrators got tired of having to tell angry parents that their little snowflake just missed the mark.
But real life is full of disappointment. When you run for president, everyone on the ballot doesn't get a bedroom in the West Wing. I don't know about the corporation you work for, but mine doesn't just promote everyone so that no one's feelings get hurt. And if four people apply for two jobs at McDonald's, the manager won't just hire everyone so that everyone feels like a winner.
But Bilas's logic fails on the "every kid plays three innings" line. That isn't about making kids feel good. It is about letting young players develop.
Many coaches would bury a lesser-skilled kid on the bench just to help his team of 9- to 10-year-olds win a couple of games against their neighbor's kid. But you shouldn't bury anyone until they're dead.
Let me tell you a true story so that you will understand where I am coming from. I helped coach my nephew's baseball team when I was 20 until I turned 30. They were tee-ballers when I started and junior varsity players when I finally hung up my coaching shorts.
There was a boy on our team who struggled as a youngster named Brian. He didn't throw very well. He couldn't hit a beach ball. He ducked when the ball was thrown or hit to him.
When he was 9, Brian managed one base hit in a 42-game season. He was put out 31 times. Fortunately, he had a few walks, so he got on base some.
Most coaches would have buried Brian. But we didn't.
We played all of the kids a similar number of innings. He got to play a lot when we were beating bad teams. He played less in closer games so that the he didn't hurt the team's chance to have success. But he played as many innings as anyone. Brian loved baseball.
We didn't bury him. We encouraged him. So he came back when he was 10 and did better. The next year, he looked a lot like the other kids. When he was 12, he batted in the clean-up spot and hit six homeruns with almost a .450 average. He was our starting third baseman and was a big reason we won 51 out of 72 games that year. We were really glad he hung around.
You see, a 9-year-old hasn't peaked athletically yet. Acting like they have means you’re not very bright.
Brian was a standout on the high school team as a senior. And when the dust settled at the 5A State Tournament in 2002, he was on the top of a dog pile after his team won the state title.
He could have quit when he was 9. But think of what he would have missed out on.
He never got any "participation" trophies or told he was a winner when we lost. But he did keep working hard because he was given a chance to develop, and he still wears that state championship ring almost a decade later.