Baseball Articles

Category: Baseball Articles

World Series


Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians: A History Time Capsule

When the Cubs last won In 1908…A British company struck oil at Masjed Soleyman in southwestern Persia (now Iran), marking the beginning of petroleum production in the Middle East. Controversy erupted at the Olympic Games, held in the new 68,000-seat stadium in the Shepherds Bush …read more


The Black Sox Baseball Scandal, 95 Years Ago

Just how the “Big Fix” of 1919 played out remains a subject of considerable debate among baseball historians. Accounts differ, but the scheme may have first materialized a few weeks before the World Series, when White Sox first baseman C. Arnold “Chick” Gandil and a gambler named …read more


10 Things You May Not Know About the Cardinals and Red Sox

1. Both the Cardinals and Red Sox once had different nicknames. A founding member of the American Association in 1882, the Cardinals were originally known as the St. Louis Brown Stockings. They shortened it a year later to the Browns and kept that nickname after the collapse of …read more


Did Shoeless Joe Jackson conspire to throw the 1919 World Series?

With the third-highest career batting average in Major League Baseball history (.356), Joseph Jefferson “Shoeless Joe” Jackson would certainly be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame—if it weren’t for the Black Sox Scandal. He and seven teammates on the Chicago White Sox were accused …read more


6 Things You May Not Know About the World Series

1. An unofficial championship between leagues predated the World Series.Although the first official World Series didn’t take place until 1903, another championship came before it. Between 1884 and 1890, the National League and the American Association (a rival organization that …read more

Yanks win their fifth series in a row

On October 5, 1953, the New York Yankees defeat the Brooklyn Dodgers to win their fifth World Series in a row. It was a record-breaking championship: Joe McCarthy’s legendary 1936-1939 Yanks had won four in a row, but no team had ever won five. The Bombers had squeaked by the …read more

Toronto Blue Jays finally win a World Series for Canada

On October 24, 1992, the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Atlanta Braves in the sixth game of the World Series to win the championship. It was the first time a Canadian team had ever won the trophy, and it was a truly international victory—the Blue Jays’ 25-man roster included several …read more

The Gashouse Gang wins the World Series

On October 9, 1934, the St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Detroit Tigers in the seventh game of the World Series. No one seems to know exactly who was the first to call that year’s Cards the “Gashouse Gang,” but everyone agrees that the nickname had to do with the team’s close …read more

So-called Brooklyn bums win their first World Series

On October 4, 1955, the Brooklyn Dodgers win the World Series at last, beating the New York Yankees 2-0. They’d lost the championship seven times already, and they’d lost five times just to the Yanks–in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953. But in 1955, thanks to nine brilliant …read more

Gibson strikes out 17 in World Series

On October 2, 1968, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson strikes out 17 Detroit Tigers in the first game of the World Series, breaking Sandy Koufax’s record for the most strikeouts in a Series game. Though the Cards ended up losing the Series in seven games, Gibson pitched …read more

Fred Snodgrass drops ball and loses World Series

On October 16, 1912, New York Giants outfielder Fred Snodgrass drops an easy pop-up in the 10th inning of the tiebreaking eighth game of the World Series against the Red Sox.His error led to a two-run Boston rally and cost the Giants the championship.Snodgrass, who had been a …read more

Don Larsen is perfect in World Series

On October 8, 1956, New York Yankees right-hander Don Larsen pitches the first no-hitter in the history of the World Series. Even better, it was a perfect game–that is, there were no runs, no hits and no errors, and no batter reached first base. Larsen’s performance anchored his …read more

Buckner lets ground ball roll through his legs

In the wee hours of the morning on October 26, 1986, Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner lets an easy ground ball dribble between his legs and roll down the right-field line. It was just a routine fielding error, but it was a disaster for the Boston Red Sox: It was the 10th inning …read more

Braves beat the Yanks to win World Series

On October 10, 1957, the Milwaukee Braves defeat the New York Yankees to win their first World Series since 1914. (They played in Boston then; the team moved to Wisconsin in 1953.) No one expected the Braves to beat the Bombers: After all, the New York team had already won the …read more

Babe Ruth sets a World Series record

On October 6, 1926, Yankee slugger Babe Ruth hits a record three homers against the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth game of the World Series. The Yanks won the game 10-5, but despite Ruth’s unprecedented performance, they lost the championship in the seventh game. In 1928, in …read more

Bush honors the Boston Red Sox

On this day in 2005, at a White House ceremony, President George W. Bush congratulates the 2005 World Champion Boston Red Sox baseball team for winning their first World Series since 1918. Massachusetts Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, and former Red Sox players were among …read more

World Series parachutist sentenced

Michael Sergio, who parachuted into Game Six of the 1986 World Series at New York’s Shea Stadium, is fined $500 and sentenced to 100 hours of community service. On October 25, Sergio, a 37-year-old actor and Mets fan, landed on the infield with a “Let’s Go Mets” banner in the …read more

Sox accused of throwing World Series

After Judge Hugo Friend denies a motion to quash the indictments against the major league baseball players accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, a trial begins with jury selection. The Chicago White Sox players, including stars Shoeless Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver, and Eddie …read more

Benefits of Playing Multiple Sports


The end of baseball season can be a gloomy time for everyone. The transition into cooler weather and the changing of the seasons into fall can be tough for anyone who enjoys spending their spring and summer days on the baseball field. While these changes signify the end of the baseball season, they don’t have to signify the end of sports participation for the year!

There are many benefits to playing multiple sports throughout the year.


Playing the same sport every day for extended periods of time, like over the course of a year, can quickly lead to burnout. Burnout in a sport is when the athlete is mentally fatigued from playing one sport too often. When athletes play one sport too often and too early on in their lives, it can result in the athlete losing the fun aspect of the sport. The athlete will then want to stop playing because they are tired of it, and it’s just not fun anymore. The sport turns into work, and they begin to resent going to practice or games. Playing in year-round ultra-competitive leagues can put a great deal of pressure on young athletes, causing them to become resentful.

It is important to remember that kids play sports because they are able to have fun with their friends, they enjoy playing, and they like to compete. These three things are the drivers of youth participation in sport. Too many young athletes get burned out because the focus on these simple drivers are lost when the athlete plays one sport for an extended period of time. By taking a break from one sport to play another, athletes are given more of a variety, as well as different situations and they are able to continue playing sports because they are more likely to enjoy them.


Overuse injuries go hand-in-hand with burnouts. If athletes play one sport year-round, they are constantly using their growing bones and muscles in the same way. With there being no variety in movement and muscle development, the muscles and bones that are being frequently used can begin to wear out from overuse. The repetitive motion of the same game year-round, doing the same skills and drills, often leads to overuse injuries such as stress fractures, strains and sprains, and even tears in muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

By playing a variety of sports, especially during the critical development years, athletes are better able to develop all of their muscle groups instead of just specific muscles for one sport. This lessens the risk of overuse related injuries because athletes have the chance to let some muscle groups relax and do different movements.


The more sports and activities that kids are involved in early on in their lives, the more opportunity they have to develop themselves as an athlete, not just as a baseball, soccer, basketball, or football player. Many skills and techniques transfer from one sport to another and complement each other while continuing to further develop and build upon preexisting skill sets. When athletes develop their skills across different sports and activities, they are likely to find that their performance in other sports will increase.

For example, both baseball and soccer involve running. In baseball, you run around the bases and after balls that have been hit when you’re on defense. In soccer, you run up and down the field passing the soccer ball back and forth trying to score. Running in baseball is usually more explosive over short distances for short periods of time, while running in soccer is more endurance over longer distances for longer periods of time. If an athlete plays both baseball and soccer, they will develop both explosive and endurance running skills. The endurance running skills can help in baseball if they hit a triple, and the explosive running skills can help in soccer if they are trying to steal a ball back from an opponent. The combination of the two skill sets make for a better all-around athlete.


Playing multiple sports can help kids build important life skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, communication, and responsibility. While playing one sport also teaches valuable life lessons, playing a variety of sports allows for lessons to be taught and learned in different environments, which helps teach adaptability and openness to change. Playing different sports provides a great opportunity to be exposed to new team roles and become a well-rounded player. For example, a player who is a star on the baseball field might find it beneficial to play in a different role in basketball.


Sport is a great vehicle for building self-confidence in youth. With each different sport, there are different levels of success that athletes can achieve, both big and small. Whether it is making a free-throw or hitting a single, each step of the way in sports holds a new chance for success. As athletes succeed in sports, their self-confidence increases because they start to understand they can overcome any obstacles that may stand in their way, both in sport and in life.

The rise of special vision checks in Major League Baseball

Performance on the baseball diamond is becoming about more than fielding and batting. Testing eyesight and hand-eye coordination may be the key to having an edge over another team. In this week’s Sunday Spotlight, NBC’s Craig Melvin meets Dr. Daniel Laby, who is assessing eight of the top teams in Major League Baseball.

Science of Baseball Evolving: Help Pitchers Avoid Injuries


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — It was Tom Hanks’ character, Jimmy Dugan, who famously declared in the movie A League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in baseball.”

In the ASMI biomechanics lab, a pitcher uses “markers” to study his mechanics and determine whether he could be prone to injury.

Here, in the biomechanics lab at American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI), research director Glenn Fleisig might as well declare, “There’s no guessing in baseball.”

OK, hitters guess what pitchers are going to throw, but scientists who study the game do not guess.

As the College World Series gets set to start Saturday and the minor leagues churn toward midseason, ASMI, which was founded in 1987 by renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, is examining college and minor league pitchers in two major studies related to pitching injuries and performance. The purpose, plain and simple, is to use science to eliminate guesswork concerning the health of pitchers.

Major League Baseball is funding an ASMI study on lowering the mound from 10 to 6 inches. A spokesman for MLB says the study is being done in the interest of arm safety. (Minor league and college pitchers also pitch from a mound that is 10 inches high.)

What if a lower mound means less velocity but healthier pitchers? Fleisig says ASMI will measure velocity in the study.

A move to lower the mound height could have a dramatic impact on the game. After all, when the mound was lowered 5 inches in 1969 (15 inches to 10 inches) after a season of dominance by pitchers in 1968, hitters regained some luster. A reduced strike zone in 1969 surely had impact, but mound height was significant. National League ERA went from 2.99 in 1968 to 3.59 in 1969. AL ERA went from 2.98 to 3.62.

Pitchers have become goliaths. They are mid-90s mph throwers — and not just as starters but hurlers coming out of the bullpen. If velocity comes down with a 6-inch mound, baseball’s caretakers might have a solution to the abundance of strikeouts in the game and get more balls put in play. And while MLB commissioned the study to look at safety, it surely will also get data related to performance.

According to, AL games average 8.20 strikeouts a team per game. In 2005, the average strikeouts in the AL was 6.07. (The NL difference over that period: 8.27 vs. 6.51.)

But will pitchers overexert themselves to keep their fastballs at 95 when a lower height drops their fastball to 92?

Don’t hazard a guess, Fleisig says. Remember, everyone assumed curveballs in young pitchers led to arm injuries, but an ASMI study in 2006 of college pitchers found throwing curveballs was less stressful than throwing fastballs.

“My first reaction is I hate change,” says Cincinnati Reds prospect Tyler Mahle, 22, one of the top pitchers in the Class AA Southern League. “There are so many things you can do to keep your arm safe. I pride myself on arm care and shoulder work. There are things you can do to protect arms besides changing the way baseball is played.”

Yet baseball has been overrun with injuries to pitchers over the last 10 years on the youth, college and professional levels. ASMI also is studying mound heights for youth pitchers, primarily to determine if lowering them makes throwing more or less stressful on their arms.

ASMI will present preliminary findings to MLB in a research meeting in July in Toronto. The full findings of the first study, which has used college pitchers, will be presented at the end of 2017.

Depending on the results, MLB might have to ask itself how much it wants to change the game to prevent injuries.

“It would be a little different to get adjusted with 4 inches off the mound,” says Philadelphia Phillies farmhand Tom Eshelman, 22, the Class AAA International League player of the month for May. “I think you would have to get adjusted and change your release point to get the ball down.”

Gallery: Players who had Tommy John surgery

Looking at the big picture
The second study, conducted with minor league players in the offseason and sometimes during the season, should aid the conclusions ASMI experts make about the first study. Its purpose is to examine the various factors that might contribute to pitchers’ injuries and how the injuries correlate with each other, if they correlate.

ASMI wants to know if injuries are a result of velocity, innings pitched, previous injuries, mechanics, players’ unique physiologies or a combination of factors.

ASMI started collecting baseline data in 2015 on pitchers when they were drafted. There were MRIs done to see what injuries pitchers might already have inside their elbows (such as frays or partial tears).

The pitchers were also put through biomechanics tests of their pitch deliveries and physicals to determine their range of motion in the shoulder and elbow.

Most major league organizations allow this data to be collected on minor leaguers when they report to spring training or their first fall instructional league. The idea is to track these pitchers over time and help determine causes of injuries.

Fleisig says data have been collected on 250 pitchers during their first spring training or first instructional leagues. The number will probably grow to 300 by the fall, when the study is due to be completed.

“Why everyone has had a problem getting an answer as to the cause of these injuries is because people are looking to say, ‘This many innings leads to injury, or these mechanics lead to injury,’” Fleisig says.

“The unique thing about this study is that it is not looking at one factor. You have to put all the factors together. There could be a guy with a lot of innings but good mechanics, or a guy with few innings and bad mechanics. It’s not the best approach to look at one factor. Can you say the guy with the higher velocity gets hurt more? That’s one factor. Let’s put all factors together and see what the equation is. I’m very excited about that.”

Veteran pitching coach Rick Peterson, who first became aware of the science of pitching at ASMI in 1989 when he coached in the minors, says minor league pitchers should be ecstatic over this scientific approach to baseball.

“Get a biomechanical assessment of your delivery, which is an MRI of your delivery,” says Peterson, who served as the major league pitching coach with the Oakland Athletics, New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers.

“That way you can assess what the yellow flags are and what the potential red flags are. Then design a conditioning program that is specific to you and based on the range of motion in your hips and range of motion in your arm.”

But what about the invariable pushback from a minor league hurler who received a $1 million bonus?

He might say, “This windup got me here. I’m sticking with it?”

“Do you think you are going to do the same thing for the rest of your career and be good in the big leagues?” says Peterson, who has also served as the Baltimore Orioles’ director of pitching development for five seasons through 2016. “That’s not happening. You look at major league pitchers in their fifth, sixth, seventh year, and do you really think they are doing the same thing as when they broke in? They are not.”

Still, Colton Turner, a 26-year-old pitcher at Class AA Birmingham (Ala.), a Chicago White Sox affiliate, says altering mechanics based on science presents a conundrum for pitchers who arrive in pro baseball as success stories.

“You can’t clone everybody. How they pitch is how the pitch,” Turner says. “But at the same time, if the science finds something that could lead to injury and you can help them out, the pitcher has to know it.”

Fleisig and ASMI are also using a device to monitor stress on pitchers’ elbows, specifically the torque. The Motus Sleeve is a compression sleeve made of polyester/elastane fabric that slides on a pitcher’s arm.

A round sensor (Bluetooth enabled) is housed inside the sleeve to record metrics on an elbow’s workload.

“If it was available to me, I would use the Motus Sleeve. Any information is good information,” Turner says. “If I was in an unsafe range with torque, I would be more cautious, especially if I was experiencing discomfort.

“Science for guys trying to get to the big leagues can help, no doubt.”

The waiting list for surgery at Andrews’ clinic here can be crowded with pitchers, especially youngsters with big dreams.

If the mound study, biomechanics on draft picks and wearable technology can help reduce his number of patients, chances are Andrews’ staff would be all-in.

But depending on the results, the risk/reward question of how much Major League Baseball — and the players who feed into it — is willing to adjust to avoid injuries should linger.

“The best kids to change are high school kids or Little League kids, because that’s where you get the bad habits,” says Bob Stanley, a former All-Star pitcher now serving as pitching coach at Class AAA Buffalo, a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate.

“The 21-, 22-year olds, sure, you still have a chance. I try and work on mechanics the first day I get them. The very first thing is to get them a solid windup.”

Originally Published 11:30 pm EDT June 13, 2017
Updated 11:34 pm EDT June 13, 2017

Stay at 17 Inches

In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention. Nineteen times since, many of the same professional, college, high school, youth, and a slew of international coaches from passionate and developing baseball nations have gathered at various convention hotels across the country for two-and-half days of clinic presentations and industry exhibits. Sure, many members of the American Baseball Coaches Association have come and gone in those years; the leadership has been passed, nepotistically, from Dave Keilitz to his son, Craig; and the association — and baseball, in general — has lost some of its greatest coaches, including Rod Dedeaux, Gordie Gillespie, and Chuck “Bobo” Brayton.

I have attended all but three conventions in those nineteen years, and I have enjoyed and benefited from each of them. But ’96 was special — not just because it was held in the home of country music, a town I’d always wanted to visit. And not because I was attending my very first convention. Nashville in ’96 was special because it was there and then that I learned that baseball — the thing that had brought 4,000 of us together — was merely a metaphor for my own life and those of the players I hoped to impact.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who the hell is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter, I was just happy to be there.

Having sensed the size of the group during check-in, I woke early the next morning in order to ensure myself a good seat near the stage — first chair on the right side of the center isle, third row back — where I sat, alone, for an hour until the audio-visual techs arrived to fine-tune their equipment. The proverbial bee bee in a boxcar, I was surrounded by empty chairs in a room as large as a football field. Eventually, I was joined by other, slightly less eager, coaches until the room was filled to capacity. By the time Augie Garrido was introduced to deliver the traditional first presentation from the previous season’s College World Series winner, there wasn’t an empty chair in the room.

ABCA conventions have a certain party-like quality to them. They provide a wonderful opportunity to re-connect with old friends from a fraternal game that often spreads its coaches all over the country. As such, it is common for coaches to bail out of afternoon clinic sessions in favor of old friends and the bar. As a result, I discovered, the crowd is comparatively sparse after lunch, and I had no trouble getting my seat back, even after grabbing a plastic-wrapped sandwich off the shelf at the Opryland gift shop.

I woke early the next morning and once again found myself alone in the massive convention hall, reviewing my notes from the day before: pitching mechanics, hitting philosophy, team practice drills. All technical and typical — important stuff for a young coach, and I was in Heaven. At the end of the morning session, certain that I had accurately scouted the group dynamic and that my seat would again be waiting for me after lunch, I allowed myself a few extra minutes to sit down and enjoy an overpriced sandwich in one of the hotel restaurants. But when I returned to the convention hall thirty minutes before the lunch break ended, not only was my seat not available, barely any seats were available! I managed to find one between two high school coaches, both proudly adorned in their respective team caps and jackets. Disappointed in myself for losing my seat up front, I wondered what had pried all these coaches from their barstools. I found the clinic schedule in my bag: “1 PM John Scolinos, Cal Poly Pomona.” It was the man whose name I had heard buzzing around the lobby two days earlier. Could he be the reason that all 4,000 coaches had returned, early, to the convention hall? Wow, I thought, this guy must really be good.

I had no idea.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who in the hell is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.

Then, finally …

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”

Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?”came a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.

“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”


“Coaches …”


” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him, do we widen home plate?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.

“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross.

“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.

“… dark days ahead.”

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.

His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.”

He was, indeed, worth the airfare.

© Chris Sperry, Baseball/Life, LLC

Written by Chris Sperry

Chris Sperry is a baseball consultant who develops players and amateur coaches, assists professional scouts, and counsels families of prospective college-bound student-athletes. He holds a Bachelor’s of Business Administration from the University of Portland, the same institution at which he served as head baseball coach for 18 years. His key interests are in player and personal development as they pertain to a life in and beyond sports.

Parents Making Youth Sports a Positive Experience: Role Models

Sports can be a fun and engaging way for children and youth to learn some important lessons about life. Studies suggest that participation in sports can be very beneficial, fostering responsible social behaviors, greater academic success, and an appreciation of personal health and fitness. Participating on a team also can give children or youth an important sense of belonging.

The atmosphere set by organizations, parents, and coaches is a major factor in determining whether or not youth will have a positive experience in a sports program. A “win-at-all-costs” atmosphere can be harmful to a developing youth. This bulletin is the first in a two-part series written to assist parents in fostering a positive climate that enables children and youth involved in sports to enjoy themselves and reach their full potential. It focuses on the benefits and risks of youth sports, discusses parents as role models, and provides practical tips for parents. The second bulletin addresses the issue of parents as spectators and consumers of organized youth sports. A related bulletin provides advice for coaches.

Few children possess the talent to play competitive sports at the highest level—most will not grow up to be professional athletes. Therefore, in this series, we take the perspective that the primary goals of youth sports are to foster the development of general physical competence and to promote physical activity, fun, life skills, sportsmanship, and good health.

Sports that foster personal competence help youth develop their abilities to do life planning, to be self-reliant, and to seek the resources of others when needed.

Benefits of Sports for Children and Youth
Sports are opportunities for children and youth to learn; they provide a “practice field” for life. For example, learning to work as a team teaches young children social skills that will help them in their growth as people, not just as athletes. For youth, participating in sports may develop teamwork, leadership, self-confidence, self-discipline, and coping skills. Sports also can teach youth about sportsmanlike behaviors and respect for authority. In fact, according to a survey of teachers and school administrators, youth that participated in sports had better grades and behaved better in the classroom because of the associated discipline and work ethic. The evidence from research is clear—children and youth who are involved in physical activities such as sports fare better in school, have higher social skills, are more team-oriented, and are healthier as determined by fitness standards.

Risks of Athletic Participation
Participation in sports also has the potential to be a negative experience for youth, depending on the program’s atmosphere. This atmosphere has nothing to do with winning or losing; rather, it depends on how the coaches and parents handle themselves, and the philosophy of the sports program organization. A child who is exposed to repeated failures and who receives criticism without useful feedback is not likely to thrive within the youth sports environment. A lack of positive role models and pressures to perform also can create a negative atmosphere. The influence of a negative climate is demonstrated by one study that examined approximately 5,800 children who recently stopped playing a sport. The researchers found that the top five reasons for stopping were “loss of interest,” “not having fun,” “too much time required,” “coach was a poor teacher,” and “too much pressure.”

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid these risks and create a positive atmosphere in a sports program. Parents should enroll their youth in programs that have clear positive goals about the sports experience, emphasizing fair play and sportsmanship as well as the skills to be taught and the lessons to be learned. With these goals, the “winning at all cost” attitude that leads to a negative atmosphere is held in check, and the learning process is emphasized.

Parents as Adult Role Models
Children and youth learn “how to play the game” from their coaches and parents. These adults are important teachers and role models, and the atmosphere they create determines whether a child’s sports experience is negative or positive. For example, parents and coaches may have goals for the youth different from those of the youth themselves. Regardless of these goals, it is critical for parents to nurture the youth’s ambitions. Parents and coaches must continuously communicate with youth to assist them and support their dreams.

Parents should play an important role in their children’s sports experiences. They can introduce their children to a sport by playing with them. During the preschool and elementary years, helping children develop basic skills such as running, jumping, kicking, and throwing is important for later skill development. During this time, sports should be focused on cooperative games that provide children a chance to explore their skills and talents and develop a sense of success. The emphasis should be on fun, not competition. At this age, children are not yet prepared to understand winning and losing. Children think losing says something negative about them personally. Putting youth at this age in highly competitive situations may be detrimental to their development. Parents need to provide encouragement and praise for effort, not for winning. To foster a child’s learning, parents should provide encouragement and direction about a specific skill.

As children get older, parents’ roles change. When children are between the ages of five and twelve, parents should encourage them to try different sports. This enables them to develop different skills and to search for a sport they really enjoy. Parents should discourage children from becoming too wrapped up in any one sport, instead giving them the opportunity to explore options. Parents should educate themselves about sports in which their children express interest. In addition, they should support their child’s decision to drop out of a sport. The notion that allowing a child to drop out of a sport teaches him or her to be a quitter is a myth. No evidence suggests that allowing youth to leave a sport in which they are unhappy leads to problems with commitment later. Of course, it is important that you encourage a child to give a sport a fair chance; but if the child is truly unhappy, then it is best that he or she quit.

Parental involvement in teaching sports usually decreases when children reach adolescence; however, adolescents still want their parents to be supportive by attending their sporting events. Parents also can show support by volunteering with tasks associated with the sports program. Here are some recommendations for parents of young athletes:

  • Develop in your child a lifelong commitment to an active lifestyle.
  • Encourage your child to try various physical activities.
  • Encourage your child to play because he or she enjoys it, not because it may get him or her a scholarship. Intrinsic motivation is a key ingredient for lifelong commitment to      physical fitness.
  • Focus more on skill mastery and cooperation and less on winning.
  • Communicate with your child’s coaches. Be involved in the sports program and seek out coaches that have a positive philosophy focused on skill building.
  • Focus on teaching life skills, and allow your child to be involved in the decision making about sports participation. Reinforce and support your child’s decisions.
  • Know your child’s friends on the team.
  • Focus on supporting your child, especially when he or she reaches adolescence. Do not instruct; let the coach instruct and teach.
  • Conclusion
    When we are caught up in competition, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that sports are supposed to be a fun, rewarding, and learning experience for youth. Keep this in mind when you are providing sports opportunities for children, so they can get the most from their experience.

    Daniel Francis Perkins, Ph.D.
    Professor of Family and Youth Resiliency and Policy


    – Dissemination and Implementation Science
    – Fidelity and Adaptation -Evaluation: Process and Impact
    – Youth and Family Resiliency
    – PROSPER Model for implementing evidence-based programs