“playing up”…good or bad for a kid? This week’s show..


5 Responses to ““playing up”…good or bad for a kid? This week’s show..”

  1. February 9, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    OK Folks, we all hear about and some of us are directly involved in it.

    This week on the show, we’re gonna discuss the merits, or lack thereof, in having a kid “play up”.

    For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, this is when a kid at a young age shows promise and so at the age of 8 or 9 is placed on a team of older kids so that he/she is more “challenged”. Sometimes unfortunately, this occurs because the parents want it and not the child.

    The results can be good or bad and there are certainly a lot of moving parts in this equations so I wanna know what you think. Let’s try to lits some of the factors that effect whether playing up positively or negatively affects the child or the parent. Anything you can use as real-life examples would be helpful.

    I wanna thank the gang at http://www.checkswing.com for sparking this particular discussion.

    Jump in and gimme your thoughts.


    Coach Tony

  2. 2 Tom
    February 10, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Hi Tony,
    This is a topic that is near and not so dear to my heart. I am the President of a large Little league program in lower Westchester. We have roughly 10 requests like this per season.
    The forgotten (and often ignored) point in the “playing up” equation is the maturity level of the player. Regardless of one’s athletic ability these kids are still emotionally an 8 year old, a 9 year old, etc. Is there any athletic benefit to an 8 year old crying that he stuck out in front of 9 or 10 year old teammates?
    Taking a young athlete and removing the social benefits of playing with friends, classmates, schoolmates and buddies has a tremendous negative impact on those athletes. Once moved up, the social dynamic is changed and the experience for the child becomes more like a “work” experience instead of a “play” experience.
    At that age, hitting is still hitting, throwing is still throwing and the emotional growth that comes from playing with age appropriate peers far out weighs the slight benefit of an 8 year old hitting against a 9 or a year old.
    My 2 cents

  3. 3 John
    February 10, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    I think Toms comments are very important although I do think it glosses over some important points. I whole heartedly agree that the maturity of the child “playing up” is extremely important, they need to be able to deal with some disappointment and being pushed a little and maybe a little less playing time. For some children who are a little more skilled than other children the same age,this may make some huge obstacles for them. The makeup of each child must be taken into consideration as well as thier temperment. Not everyone can make this leap “up” succesfully..no doubt about that. Yet there are some who can and do flourish under the proper supervision.

    For a child who is better suited for a higher level of competition..being kept down at a lower level might be more of a hinderance. Picking up bad practice habits or bad techniques due from boredom and lack of competition to me are far worse to the development of athlete than opposed to being pushed by a higher level of play. To compete at the higher level takes more desire,confidence,preserverance and maturity than the good that can come from the false confidence from dominating less talent. Not even mentioning the slight jealousy or disdain from fellow kids or even parents may make it that much harder to fit in.

    I think Tom brings up a great point about the maturity of each child. That must be taken into consideration as to knowing the child and familiarity of seeing them perform. Yet he severely downplays the benefits. I have seen many first hand as my son is one “playing up” I have coached him almost every year as I also think that is an important piece of the puzzle. My son became bored and frustrated by not being able to throw the ball the way he should in fear of injuring someone. He hardly ever got any pitches to hit since most could not throw strikes and while most were talking about Pokemon or trying to trip one another, he was there to play baseball,something he really enjoys. BTW my son is 10 and plays with 11 and 12yr olds. Has he struggled a bit here and there? of course. Has he become a better player? Yes he has. does he have alot more friends? you bet he does. It all depends on the individual boy or girl. Just one more opinion out there

  4. February 11, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    As president of My-Youth-Baseball.com, I think there are only two factors you absolutely must consider when making this decision.

    First, there must be some extremely good talent in the kid that many people see, not just the parents. Parents, typically, have rose colored glasses on much of the time and don’t see the player for his actual talent. Previous coaches, other coaches, board members and others must see this talent.

    Secondly, IF the player does have enough talent to move up, then he must make the decision. With absolutely no pressure from any adults! Don’t forget that baseball is supposed to be fun and the fun of the game will help develop the skill. For most kids, the fun begins with playing with friends. If you start messing with his teammates and the ages of hit teammates, the game may no longer be fun…

    In my opinion, the only way to find this out is to, out of the blue, ask the kid if he would ever want to play up with the older kids. His first reaction will tell you what he wants.

    The reason I say that is because many kids want to “please” their parents. If a kid begins to see that “my dad really wants me to play with the older kids”, he will probably say he wants to play with the older kids. That could lead to less fun and making the game of baseball a chore. We don’t want that!

    Lastly, just remember to keep the game of baseball simple. As your child gets older and develops at his own pace, the talent will shine through. If he does it on his own, he will be much more likely to “drive” himself and want to get better. Then things will fall into place naturally…

    Have a good day!

  5. 5 manny mota
    February 18, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    The previous posts are all very good. Tom’s perspective on the emotional aspects involving this are right on. The rush to play a kid “up” has become more of a status symbol for parents than for kids in many cases. There is no reason for an eight year old to play up in a travel ball situation in any sport unless he is jeopardizing the other teams safety in some way. Even if a kid can play to the level of the next age group, what’s the rush. Why would anyone want a kid to play half a game “up” as opposed to a full game with his/her peers. For really young kids,skill level will not be hampered by staying with one’s own age group and a good coach will handle a kid s boredom by matching drills with a kids skill level. Bottom line is that even if a kid has a high skill level, nothing means anything until the kid hits puberty. If the kid leads the world in little league homeruns, yet can’t get it out of the infield on the big field, what’s the benefit of playing up. After a kid gets older and their physical development, or lack of, becomes evident, then decisions to play “up” become relative and reasonable. Before that,unless your kid is Bryce Harper, let them play with their friends. Like Tom said, the emotional and social benefits of early success and fun far outweigh the need to play up. A kid ‘s self confidence is huge at this stage of the game and directly affects his love of the game. This involves any sport. Struggling while playing up might hinder a talented kid causing him/ her to doubt their abilities and sour on the sport. So be careful. Don’t be that parent, dial it back.

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