JRW outcome shows what is wrong with youth sports

With the Little League coming down on Jackie Robinson West, there has been a lot of backlash about whether or not they should have been stripped of their national title and if race played a role into it.

The only comment I’ll make on that is the title should have been forfeited because they used illegal players. It is just like the IHSA or NCAA stripping teams of titles or putting teams on probation for doing illegal activity. This is no different, just with younger players.

Yes, it is unfortunate for the members of Jackie Robinson West, but it is even more unfortunate to all the teams it beat along the way, especially those in the tournament who were knocked out by a team breaking the rules.

With that said, many people are missing the main point of the topic. That is parents and coaches need to set a much better example than they are doing by and large around youths.

A few years ago I wrote a column about high school coaches getting flack from parents rather than just letting them coach and do their job. That of course, is part of the problem. But it isn’t the only problem.

Like in many things, the United States is a country of extremes. Athletics is just one of those things where many people are on one side or the other and few have the correct balance.

There are those who don’t want to keep score, want every player to play the same no matter the talent level, want everyone to win a trophy and other things along those lines. These parents are teaching their kids a lack of competitiveness, which could eat them alive in all aspects of life down the road.

There is the other end of the spectrum, where parents and coaches place an extra emphasis on winning. They want to win at all costs. They will have players play in leagues they are too old to play in, join a team or a school that is not in their district, or even buy an apartment so their son or daughter has an appropriate mailing address to play for a high school coach. All these things are also wrong.

Left in the middle are the parents who would like their kids to win and do well, but want to do that through hard work and doing things the right way. They won’t punish a kid for having a bad game or for the team losing. However, they also won’t promote giving up and not trying their hardest to do well no matter the situation.

Unfortunately, these parents get over run by the extremists. They are left with their children in youth leagues that don’t keep score or in competitive leagues where opponents are cheating to get an upper hand. It is a shame because at the end of the day, it is those young athletes who suffer. They get unfairly punished at the expense of others, or, in the Jackie Robinson West case, in expense of their parents as well.

Maybe the members of the team knew what was going on. Maybe they didn’t. But I’m pretty confident in saying it wasn’t their choice to bring in these other players so they could win.

Now their names will be drug through the mud based on what a few did. It isn’t the first time a team has cheated and isn’t the last. There will be more teams bending the rules or breaking them to win titles. Some will get caught, others will get away.

Instead of blaming others if we get caught, as parents, shouldn’t we be teaching our kids about taking responsibility for our actions? That winning isn’t worth cheating? That doing things the right way will make winning that much more fun?

It’s time parents start looking at themselves and ask if they are doing right and being good role models for their kids. This is a perfect opportunity for that to happen. Unfortunately, some are putting others at the fault for something they did and are turning a teachable moment into an attack on others.

It’s a shame.

Leave a Reply