Elbow Up Youth Baseball

Weekend Tournaments are Ruining Youth Baseball Player Development

February 26, 2021 Kevin Burke
Elbow Up Youth Baseball
Weekend Tournaments are Ruining Youth Baseball Player Development
Show Notes
🛑 Before you go any further - this is part one of a two part series. Links for parts two and three are at the end of this!

You can click play above to listen 🎧 or scroll down to read 📖 the article below.

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This may be one of the most controversial posts I’ve written or recorded since my Dizzy Dean post that helped kick off the Elbow Up era!

In that article I argued that they, and many other ‘Little League’ type organizations, had doomed themselves with a failure to evolve as the youth sports landscape had shifted.

Now, as those organizations have seen a mass exodus of young players, the pendulum has swung in the completely opposite direction. All we have now are two day tournaments every weekend for 9 months out of the year that is killing youth baseball player development.

The answer is not to go back to the old way of recreational leagues and all-stars, but to find a middle ground that promotes player development AND competition, while remaining flexible and affordable. And that’s going to be difficult.

⚾ The Problem

I’ve been thinking about this for some time, but didn’t really know which angle to tackle it from.

Simply put, the current “select” or “travel ball” environment fails at player development because it puts coaches in a must-win mentality every game, every week.

Coaches are constantly thinking about seeding, the elimination bracket, who they’re going to play next, how many runs can they give up, who might pitch next, and who would be available to pitch then.

None of that is really something that should be a priority week in and week out for youth coaches.

Now before everyone gets upset and sends hate mail, I’m not against tournaments. I’m also not against winning, or playing to win. As I’ve stated on here regularly I want to win every time I step onto the field.

⚾ Young Players Aren’t Ready for this Type of Baseball

Let’s start backwards with the older age groups and more advanced baseball. I’m talking 15U and above select, or travel, baseball.

Weekend tournaments are fine. Teams are typically built for them. By this age, the player pool has been somewhat filtered, and the talent gap has closed (relatively speaking).

Coaches know who pitches and who doesn’t, and the focus begins to shift from fun and development to competition and working on playing in college.

At this age, most kids still playing are playing in high school, they have a primary position or two, and they understand the game (again, relatively speaking). You’ll even see quite a few POs, which is short for ‘pitcher-only.’

Compare that to the 9U and 10U landscape today.

Coaches have zero clue who will be pitchers, players haven’t matured enough mentally or physically to know where they might fit best on the field, and they certainly don’t know the game.

The best teams typically have the best athletes, which is not a good predictor of who will be the best baseball players when they’re 16 or 17 years old.

⚾ Coaches Focus 100% on Winning

This is a tough one. Even the most objective coaches are lured into this trap - myself and my team included!

And when you do find that rare coach who sees the long g

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