Too Little Practice or Too Much (focus on Little Leaguers)
When I played little league in Winnipeg Manitoba many years ago we really didn’t practice often enough. Part of this problem was and is the weather, as snow came in around October and was not gone often until late April. Even then the ground was not good for many sports until the water or semi-permafrost was gone.
How many sports can be taken indoors and run over 7-months and not have everyone go stir crazy or broke paying for gym space to play their sport by themselves? Not enough if you want to continue sports like baseball in the colder regions of the world.
On the other hand hockey can be run outdoors and thus gives such nations a great lead. This is common sense, but where some fail to see these facts is in the nations that move ahead internationally, and do to compliable weather 365 days a years, like here in many parts of Japan and in countries like sports mad Australia. The race to teach skills is often won by these facts alone, for example 7 more months of grounders and fly balls is bound to have an effect upon boys with less natural talent. Asking boys to wait 7-months to continue playing is extremely risky and many boys never reappear in spring simply because they took up something else or forgot about playing baseball because they discover computer games.
The very serious team my son and I went to practice with here in Japan had 2 practices a week (standard for them) and more when holidays were nationwide. They started at roughly 8:00 am and finished at roughly at 7:00 pm both days, and when you include travel time it becomes a time black hole of sorts. Now I’m sure some teams in other nations are lucky to get everyone there once a week, with poor nations not having school systems that allow boys to be practicing with coaches or playing stick ball type games by themselves with the less school hours to none. This certainly has the same effect as that of weather.
Now here in Japan education is very serious, as in many Asian nations, and they additionally go to cram schools during the week, weekends & holidays, so to demand such hours for sports is to virtually to give up on being tops in class, with thousands of Chinese characters to be learned, levels of math & science that lead the world to be studied. So some “way” must be designed to maximize time spent, or thus cripple the education of your children.
The Infielder & Outfielder Bias
I will go into this in detail later, but such long practices help infielders, outfielders and batters, but are not always good for pitchers. Sure players learn to play other positions, but this is almost always a one-way street as clearly future pitchers learn to field in other positions, while outfielders & infielders almost never learn to be pitchers to the same level the other way round. Any time spent teaching an obvious future pitcher to field other positions, instead of only the mound region & first base is a waste to him and the team. The constant contempt that one hears for pitchers fielding their position, even in the MLB, has its roots in this bias. Teams and coaches are made up of many more infielders and outfielders than former full time pitchers. In the movie “Bull Durham” this bias is shown in a very funny way, but not all pitchers are dumb, some are made and some forced to be.
I tend to think of pitchers arms as racehorses’ legs. The time and care taken to not overwork such horses legs is an art, all the more for the young. You always want to start younger (I would suggest 7- 8 for baseball), but how you work such issues is the devil in the details. Macho coaches are a curse in baseball, and Japan certainly has its share, as has been seen on so many occasions in the high school tournaments here. Many boys pitch well beyond the right pitch count for their age, as they also pitch too soon with no proper rest between starts. Up until recently not allowing children to drink water during P.E. classes was very common too. What jack ass thought up such ideas deserves to run into a involved parent like me who will chew them out, in front of all if need be (or more), for such moronic ideas. All this in the name of pitchers “taking one for the team” like this is some sport where guts trumps the facts of life is well beyond silly.
In Japan there is such respect to authority figures that weak men, as coaches, get the bad general’s mind. The shoulder, elbow & wrist are not the field of battle to be waged in any tough guy battles. That would be like taking infants and throwing them on the frontlines of a war and saying “suck it up.” These body parts are tender & fragile for full-grown men, let alone young boys.
Now I’m a former rugby player, gridiron player & free style wrestler so there are lots of places and times to teach discipline, toughness, and fighting spirit, but not on this battlefield of the pitcher’s arm. Such bad coaches need to get out more and play other sports and learn baseball will never be as tough as others sports, so get over it or be insecure forever. It is a graceful sport and as we all know bulk doesn’t help in baseball. Mental toughness matches up with other sports and focus is much higher in baseball than most sport, but toughness just isn’t as high. Outfielders deal with boredom as they stand around waiting for action to start. This and the weather did me in for Winnipeg Little League. Over practice can lead to a lack of looseness on the part of players and leads to more injuries and errors, as Bobby Valentine showed quite well as he would increase pressure in a fun way during practice, and try to lessen it before and during games.
Pitchers are going to be taller boys and that means more growth time, with longer clumsy periods. Shorter infielders are going to look better as they are dealing with the same height and appendage lengths as they have always had. So you must pick your battles better with pitchers and not yell at a boy going through a growth spurt as the shorter guys sets the pace for the rest.
Most, and almost everyone here in Japan, are quick to say someone is good because he is tall and strong, yet they don’t like to see or say shortness allows for better coordination and speed. A good question must be asked is why your shorter son or daughter is not doing better than the taller children? Only time well spent allows a growing youth the ability to catch up in these areas, or they simply remain clumsy all their life.
The good coach and or father must balance these issues and not let tradition and "chip on their shoulder tough guys" blow your boys spirit, interest and arms early.
Re: Too Little Practice or Too Much (focus on Little Leaguers)
[ Author: Guest: RegDunlap | Posted: Jun 5, 2011 11:08 PM
Hello and welcome to the forum!
I am a fellow refugee from Canuckistan and have been here for more than a decade. I had the same reservations as you when choosing activities for my son. He is older now (in high school) and always says "thank you" that I didn't enroll him in youth soccer or baseball.
The teams just demand too much. Too much time, energy, etc. As a foreign parent, it is very stressful to have to constantly butt heads with stubborn coaches and fellow parents. In particular, the constant practice on weekends and throughout any holidays makes it impossible to have a family vacation, return to Canada for an extended time, or really do anything at all. One of my coworkers (Australian, married to a Japanese) was lamenting that her daughter wanted to join her school's swim team. It meant daily practice all summer, and no chance to go back to Oz and visit her family. Asking the coach/team for a bit of leeway would have only made her daughter a target for bullying.
I used to teach junior high school here, and even coached a little (flag) football at my school. My practices were pretty basic- a four skills session (running, passing, defence, agility) in the first half, and a scrimmage in the second. I always saw the school baseball team doing their thing on the other side of the school ground. Endless fielding drills, playing catch, running around towing old car tires, and a lot of shouting. I don't remember them actually playing baseball...
Re: Too Little Practice or Too Much (focus on Little Leaguers)
[ Author: Switch Pitcher
| Posted: Jun 7, 2011 9:09 AM
| Posts: 28
| From: Edogawa-ku
| LOT Fan
| Registered: May, 2011
Thanks for the comments.
"I had the same reservations as you when choosing activities for my son. He is older now (in high school) and always says "thank you" that I didn't enroll him in youth soccer or baseball." - RJ
I understand totally where you coming from, yet I haven't given up on sports here just yet. You need to keep knocking on doors until you find a more casual coach. It's hard and Mike says you can do it.
"The teams just demand too much. Too much time, energy, etc. As a foreign parent, it is very stressful to have to constantly butt heads with stubborn coaches and fellow parents. In particular, the constant practice on weekends and throughout any holidays makes it impossible to have a family vacation, return to Canada for an extended time, or really do anything at all." - RJ
My son played soccer with the British Football Academy here in Japan for years, to strengthen his legs while he was young, until he got too advanced. There were more Japanese boys & girls than foreign ones. There they could get too casual for my liking, but it was fun and you could choose your time.
There are other options I'm pursuing with my son with baseball, which I'll be going into shortly on this blog, but at some level he must reenter the strict & demanding methods of the culture here. Before joining the Japanese Little League team I had my wife translate a few conditions, and they kept to a few of these, while I adhered to all of their other conditions. My Japanese wife was totally at odds to my son joining, as she was concerned with his education, and knows, as you do, how time consuming it is. Also with the team we were with I saw at least 4 Japanese boys come & go as the Japanese parents just couldn't handle the time and or rules either. So its more a tradition that a people.
At some time in the distant future I'd like to start a mixed boy's team, and having another Canadian would be an ace in the hole. Are you game to any role?
"I used to teach junior high school here, and even coached a little (flag) football at my school. My practices were pretty basic- a four skills session (running, passing, defence, agility) in the first half, and a scrimmage in the second. I always saw the school baseball team doing their thing on the other side of the school ground. Endless fielding drills, playing catch, running around towing old car tires, and a lot of shouting. I don't remember them actually playing baseball..."-RJ
Did you play gridiron ball in Canada? I played a lot and played American rules here in Japan for years. It was funny, as unlike Baseball it was way too casual. Players turned up sometimes, some smoked on the sidelines and practices were light (and we won the league).
I was a Sea Cadet in my youth so the discipline, rules & time are often to my liking, it was the too hot too cold problem. They had no rules about coaches smoking in front of the boys and bigger boys rough housing younger ones, but wouldn't let me talk to my son for 12 hours etc. ( which admittedly I had a hard time keeping to).
I'll be going into much more detail in the months to come, because I want people to give baseball a try here, as there is more I like in their methods here than I dislike.
Unfortunately is hard to change any established team, even in the smallest of ways, once they hard sell you to join they go authority figure on you. The way to go is find some Japanese parents that want more moderate ways and work with them in a balanced mixture of methods. Then do well enough to change the old teams. No small task. I could go on for hours, so I'll hold off until I see you are interested in such things.