Hard Ball Talks
Date: October 12, 2015
Guest: Elliott Finkelstein, Director at Triple Crown Sports. You can learn more about Elliott and the professional events that Triple Crown Sports hosts at www.triplecrownsports.com.
Topic: With an increasing number of youth clubs forming, more and more tournaments and events popping up, it is critical for us coaches and parents to take a more active role in the assessment of finding the right experience for our athletes. Events have the ability to be a contributor to the right experience in youth sports or a deterrent. Elliott took some time with us to discuss sports events, tournament experiences, and his overall passion to improve the youth sports platform.
This is a question that many families struggle with in youth sports. What is the right experience – Recreation or Select Travel Ball? Families used to wrestle with this question when their child was around 12 or 13 years old, but now these talks start to take place around the ages of 7, 8, or 9 years old. It is short sighted to just look at the league each plays in – one must consider the overall experience their athlete will have.
This question leads to many stressful discussions within the family.
This question leads to varying advice from those the family may seek for advice.
This question leads to strong opinions that get displayed on social media or in conversations in which one side of the question degrades the other side.
Here’s an exercise for you to get the true barometer on this question . . . go to Facebook and search Select Ball Has Ruined Our Youth and read one side of the coin. Then, type in Rec Ball Has Softened Our Youth to read the other side of the coin.
First let’s ask – what is the actual difference between rec ball and select ball? Make note of who you ask, because you are going to get a “pro-answer” from them on the side they lobby and vice versa. You will hear things like the cost is different, this one plays tournaments and that one doesn’t, this one has better competition and that one doesn’t, this one supports multi-sport athletes and that one doesn’t. Unfortunately through all the debate everyone is missing the actual important question – what is the right experience my athlete should have.
The key in finding the right experience is establishing goals. Goals #1 should be around the love of the game. Only a healthy experience will provide a true love and passion for anything. Goals around having fun, recreation, and activity for health, competition, life lessons, teamwork, and leadership are all components of a healthy experience. Seek out the right experience, not the right tagline.
As a club, we have looked in to the environments and the experiences that the typical 6, 7, and 8 year olds are having in the game of baseball and softball in our region. Currently, the experiences that 6-8 year olds have in baseball and softball are very inconsistent. Some teams at these ages may:
Head down an aggressive path with burnout right around the corner.
Spend most of the time focused on the games and competition portion but neglect the development and team portion of the sport.
Get together for a small 2-month season and kids are picking 4 leaf clovers in the outfield.
We have designed our Junior program to provide the right experience for 6-8 year olds. It is a club-focused, all-inclusive program that provides the roadmap and monitoring needed to assure the right experience for our athletes and their families. We are not a select organization for 6-8 year olds; we are a club that walks hand in hand with the coaches and families to ensure the right experience in youth sports. The right experience should increase the love of the game for the kids each year they play, it should allow for them to pursue multiple sports building on their athleticism, it should combat burnout with a roadmap and a plan to develop the kids skills year in and year out.
It is time for parents and coaches to ask the right question – what experience do I want for my kid and team? That is a deeper question than – what league should they play (select/rec)? When we ask families what experience do you want for your child at the age of 7 we get a answer that is genuine, with out the malice and frustration you see out in social media. We hear that the experience people want for their kids is very specific. They want their kids to get better at the game, be a part of a team, have a coach that loves the game, be taught some life lessons through the platform of sports, we want our child to enjoy some games and success, we want them to have fun and to fall in love with the game. That is the model that our Junior program has been built on.
We are working to educate families that the league (rec or select) is not the entire experience. The league your child plays in (rec or select) is only one component of the experience but it doesn’t encompass the needs of the kids entirely. It leaves out the building blocks of sports – the teamwork, the life lessons, and the other characteristics we discussed earlier that are what we want to help families understand. What should your 6, 7, 8 year old do? They should play in a Junior program that follows the correct roadmap built around providing the 3D experience. The 3D experience provides the right physical and mental development at the right age.
Our sports culture has placed labels on different levels of ball (rec, select, AAU, etc.) – these titles do not represent a consistent experience.
Forget the name – pay attention to the experience. Make sure the experience is a building block for the future for your athlete in the sport.
For the first time in program history, high school athletes will have the opportunity to tryout for two different programs in the Extreme with the Competitive and Elite Programs. Our goal is to help families match their expectations with the right environment. Both programs are built to support athletes who are pursuing higher competition levels in the game. Each family will have more support in making the decision for which environment is right for them. Our coaches are better equipped to support all high school athletes by helping the families place their athlete in the environment that is ideal for them.
- Regional tournaments
- High level high school ball
- Collegiate bound athletes with local and regional goals
The competitive athlete has high goal aspirations. The athletes who join the competitive teams are transitioning into developing structure and a plan to accomplish their goals. Most of the competitive athletes strive to play past high school but haven’t spent extensive time in a weight room or a skill training session utilizing professional coaches. The competitive program helps athletes and families stair step towards the extra work needed to expand their game and playing experience. Most competitive athletes are focused on making their high school teams and gaining Varsity playing time while competing at a strong high school level. Competitive athletes are looking for opportunities to go on and play college ball, in a regional setting. The competitive program gives players an opportunity to transition into further development and into a regional competition level.
Elite – National Program:
- National competition playing against the top 100 programs in the country
- All-inclusive development for the team to close the gap and chase out inconsistencies found between the mid-west and the rest of the country
- College bound and beyond – goals to play at the highest levels
The Elite brand has been around since 2010. It was the first time the program went outside the region and competed on the national level. Running into long-standing programs with traditions of top-flight scholarship athletes showed us that we had gaps to fill in our Midwest talent. Through our evaluation of the previous Elite program, we began to see what held us back from achieving our mission. The program was inconsistent in the development plan of athletes, the approach of coaching, and the expectations of parents. The new Elite – National Program is designed to close the gap on these inconsistencies. To have the right experience your athlete needs right environment and development.
Which environment is right for your athlete? For families making the decision we encourage them to consider the distinction between the environments, commitment, and competition level. Our coaches, support staff, and executive directors are here to help you through the decision process. Both programs will be 3D experiences and have success – the key is matching the right environment with the right expectations. Fundraising support will be extensive for families in all our programs, especially those participating in the Competitive and Elite – National Programs.
Proper amount of training is a question every family faces. Should my 6 year old be training as often as my 16 year old. What type of training should each age group be doing? Is training with just their team enough? Should they be training year round? A component of stress on the youth athlete and their families today is understanding and making decisions around the appropriate amount of training for their sport as it relates to the age and commitment level of that athlete. Parents are faced with tough decisions such as:
At what point do we participate in college camps?
At what point do we need more individual attention in training with a private instructor?
How often should I be training when my child is 8, 14, and 18 years old?
At what point do I need to invest in the best equipment, play in the top tournaments offered, and increase our travel for competition?
Currently all these questions are sitting at the dinner table with families while burnout of youth athletes is at an all-time high. Listen below to hear co-founder Brett Swip discuss the physical and skill development issues facing families in youth sports today.