I coach, or my child plays, Rookie baseball. I feel the children are not being challenged and/or the level of competition is unsatisfactory. What can I do about this?

First of all, there is a reason AA does not start until Mosquito, and AAA does not start until PeeWee.  These are just little kids, and no matter how “advanced” some of them might appear or purport to be, the priority at this level of play is NOT competition and/or performance.  There is plenty of time for that later at the AA and AAA levels. Rookie baseball is about teaching the kids principles of discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership, basic foundational technique, and most importantly, how to have fun playing ball so they come back next year, and the next, and so on.  Many of these objectives, like leadership, sportsmanship and even the foundational skills and techniques, are more easily and effectively taught when a team has players of varying skill levels, as the more experienced kids are forced to learn how to mentor and support their less skilled teammates, and those less skilled kids have the more experienced ones as models to learn from.  The very best team sport athletes are those who can raise the level of play of those around them… not just excel on an island.

Secondly, Rookie is a very flexible (indeed, the most flexible) level of baseball and the coaches have a great deal of control over the level of difficulty presented to each child.  From using tees for the beginners, to more difficult pitching for the advanced kids, all of that is directly under the control of the coaches.  Also, having more kids on a team will give those coaches much more flexibility in how they can move players around and make adjustments than would be possible with a smaller number of “experienced” or “elite” players.  Inevitably, ensuring multiple teams playing at the Rookie level all have fairly even or “reasonable” numbers means spreading younger inexperienced players throughout those rosters.

Finally, parents are more than welcome to assist.  If a parent thinks their child should get some extra attention, then they are free to assist in providing that attention.  If a parent or coach sees something they believe might be a safety issue, then do something about it. We’re all just parent volunteers at the end of the day doing what we can to give the kids opportunities.  Get involved, help out, and the overall experience for all of those involved will improve.

Case Study:  

Problem:   We have 15 inexperienced 7 year olds and 15 experienced 8 year olds registered for Rookie ball.  How should we divide this up? 15 kids is too many for a single team. 7 kids is too few for a single team.  There are two pairs of siblings (1 younger/inexperienced, 1 older/experienced) that each have to be kept together on a team for travel.  We also have only 2 parents who have volunteered to coach. Placing all the inexperienced kids together on one or two Jr. Rookie teams, and all the experienced kids together on one or two Sr. Rookie teams (which would be the ideal competitive solution, but perhaps not so ideal from a developmental standpoint) is clearly unreasonable.  The numbers dictate that 3 teams of 10 be created, but we will have to find another coach and, when/if we do that may place an additional hard restriction on the affected roster.  Restricting all of the “overflow” inexperienced players to only one of either two Jr. or two Sr. teams will create one of two conditions that may be undesirable: a) The experienced players forced to play on the Jr. Rookie team will not be sufficiently challenged by the level of competition, or b)  The inexperienced players forced to play on the Sr. Rookie team will have difficulty with the level of competition. These undesirable (but unavoidable) conditions will be exacerbated if the outliers are concentrated on a single roster.  Regardless of how the three Rookie teams are set up at the end of the day, two of them will be in the same group within their league and have to play games against each other.  Putting all of the strongest players in that group on one team (‘A’ Team), and the weakest on the other team (‘B’ Team), will obviously create a competitive imbalance that players, parents and coaches on the ‘B’ team are very likely to find unsatisfactory.  Finally, after registration has closed, 3 kids will cancel their registrations and 2 more will join late (all with varying ages and skill levels), resulting in unavoidable adjustment of whatever existing roster configuration has been set, within the confines of whatever pre-existing hard restrictions are present on those rosters.  

Solution:   There is no perfect solution.  The challenge is finding the ‘best’ solution under the circumstances and distributing the compromise (and there WILL be compromise) as evenly as possible among those affected.  This is just one group, at one level of play on the house league side of BMBA. In 2018 alone we had 209 athletes on 19 teams spread across 12 age categories in 3 different leagues.  If you think any of this sounds simple, then please attend our next AGM and volunteer for the position of Registrar. We will happily put your skills to good use.