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If it's worth having, it's worth earning

July 31, 2010|By JOEL HUFFER
  • Joel Huffer
,

So, you think your kid is an all-star?

You're probably right.

After all, these days, whose kid isn't?

Open the sports section of this newspaper on most any day during July and August and you'll find results of all-star games for baseball players ranging in age from 7 to 16 years old.

Local Little Leagues offer tournaments for a variety of ages -- 7-8, 9-10, 10-11, 11-12, 13-14 (junior) and 14-16 (senior). The local PONY and Colt leagues have tournament teams for players ages 13 to 16.

Let me state for the record that I have no objection to all-star teams. Recognizing those who are the best in their sport is legitimate.

But when those recognized constitute the majority of a league rather than the minority, that's when I think we have a problem.

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Most local Little Leagues have four to six teams in their 9-12 age division. If each team has a dozen players, that's 48 to 72 players from which to select three all-star teams (9-10, 10-11 and 11-12).

If those teams also have 12-player rosters, 36 of the 48 players in a four-team league will be all-stars. That's 75 percent.

In a five-team league, that falls to 60 percent (36 of 60). In a six-team league, it drops to 50 percent (36 of 72).

What message are we sending our youth when at least half of a league's players are considered all-stars?

I think we're leading them to believe they are better than they are.

I think we're teaching them to expect recognition for doing what is expected.

And I think we're doing them a terrible disservice.

When I played Little League in the 1980s, there was one all-star team -- for 11- and 12-year-olds. At South Mountain Little League, we had five teams. So there were roughly 60 players in the 9-12 division.

As an 11-year-old, I wasn't selected for the all-star team. It was my third year playing in the division, but the coaches believed there were a dozen better players.

I accepted that. And I used it as motivation.

I made the commitment to improve, spent countless hours developing my skills in the backyard and made the all-star team as a 12-year-old. And I wore that uniform with pride, knowing that I earned it with hard work.

If I had been named an all-star every year since I picked up a ball and glove, I don't think I would have been so driven to succeed. I probably would have expected to make the team.

The abundance of all-star teams can create a strong sense of entitlement, especially when players receive trophies for nothing more than participation.

My sons have played soccer for several years, and each time they have received a participation trophy at season's end, I have held my tongue and been gracious. But it hasn't been easy.

Do you remember the day when trophies only went to the team that won the league championship?

I do.

And it's probably because I don't have one.

But what I do have from those four years of Little League -- when the teams on which I played lost more games than we won -- is something much more valuable.

I have the understanding that everything worth having in life is worth earning.

Is that something that today's Little Leaguers will be able to say in 25 years?

Joel Huffer is managing editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7796 or by e-mail at joelh@herald-mail.com.

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