The Wrong Lesson For Young Players

Hawaii guard Keith Shamburger sets up the offense against Boise State last month. AP photo/Eugene Tanner

Hawaii guard Keith Shamburger sets up the offense against Boise State last month. AP photo/Eugene Tanner

A couple of weeks ago I got text messages from my sons’ baseball coaches stating that each of their teams had been invited to a tournament Dec. 28 and 29 at Koko Head District Park. The entry fee would be $300 for Pinto teams (7- and 8-year-olds) and $400 for Mustang teams (ages 9 and 10). Each team was guaranteed to play four games over the weekend, with champions bracket teams to play five.

And there was much to be admired at the tourney. The logistics were smooth, it was well organized and nicely officiated. There was one problem, though, and it was a big one. This was a jackpot tournament, with a four-figure cash prize to the winning teams in each age group. So adults were essentially gambling on the play of the 7- to 10-year-olds on the field.

I’d never heard of this, and I hope it doesn’t gain a foothold because it encourages more of the worst behavior seen in youth sports. Many teams were select teams comprised of the best players from various local leagues. Rosters are stacked to increase the chances of winning. Unlike in our regular league, there were no caps on runs scored per inning at the Mustang level. Some teams were not select, just kids who were on one team, many at the younger age for their division. My oldest was on one of those teams, and his team was down 15- 0 in the top of the first. And there was still nobody out. I was wondering why the other team was still stealing bases, and was told that one of the tiebreakers was runs scored, so don’t expect any mercy.

What exactly are we accomplishing with this? Are we developing a love for the game or just trying to win by the largest margin possible?

My son’s team lost the Sunday games 25-0 and 31-7. In the first game, many of the players on the stronger team batted three times – in the first inning. I suppose that will happen when a talented, experienced team plays one with a bunch of beginners, but it doesn’t seem to encourage sportsmanship when there’s a pile of cash at stake. When my son asked why that was allowed, I had to tell him that sometimes we grown-ups forget why we’re here.

Hopefully, sensible people will see that awarding cash prizes based on the outcome of young children’s games is a very poor idea.

* The Rainbow Warrior basketball team is set to start conference play this week and four of their first five games are on the road. It shouldn’t take long to figure out how this team will travel, but a couple of factors are grounds for optimism.

First, UH generates significant defensive pressure with a variety of different looks. It’s one thing for an opposing point guard to see 7-foot Davis Rozitis on tape as the head of a 1-2-2 zone, and quite another to witness it firsthand.

Second, the Rainbow Warrior guards are all good ball handlers and adept free-throw shooters, particularly point guard Keith Shamburger, and that should help UH down the stretch in tight games. If they can fare reasonably well in the opening road games, they’ll be in excellent shape for the four-game homestand in the first eight days of February.