My friend lives in a close but not neighboring town that has a population of about 28,000.  A good chunk of that town has lower income families.  And, to be candid, there are parts of that town that have serious issues with drugs, crime and public safety. 

His son and mine are the same age, both Freshmen, and play baseball.  I ran into him recently and shared that our HS is having tryouts March 1st and asked him when his HS was doing it.  (For a point of reference, my town has about 67,000 living here and has 2 public HS for us compared to the one public HS in his town.)

His response:  Tryouts?  For baseball?  We don't have enough for tryouts.  You sign up and you're on the team.  We don't even have a freshmen team.  Maybe around 4 freshmen will be trying out?  They will be on the JV team.  But, my son told me that there's a good chance that he will be on Varsity (as a freshmen) because he's got the size and they really don't have too many options on Varsity, according to the coach.

Related, I recently met someone who does live in a neighboring town and found out that he was involved in running the rec league there.  I always thought it was a pretty good league, by reputation, and complimented him on the job that he was doing there.  He corrected me and said:  Four years ago, we had 500 kids playing in the league.  This year, we will be lucky to get 185 playing.  At this point, pretty soon, we're going to have to start pulling in kids from other towns to keep it going.

Obviously, every town is different and it's not the same issue for every one.  But, I have to think there's some common threads here.  Where are all the baseball players going if rec leagues are shrinking by more than 50% in less than 4 years and HS teams (in a town of near 30K) don't have enough kids to actually hold a tryout?

Original Post

Our rec league is growing and travel ball is huge here so no shortage of players.  I think rec leagues are reducing as a whole but travel ball is growing as a pattern even though many of those do not need to be playing travel ball.  I think the numbers of sports participants will continue to go up and down.  Different parts of the country affect that but I think numbers in the southern parts will continue to remain similar.

Wow - more than 50% in the past 4 years is a very steep drop in participation, steeper than the typical "youth rec sports participation is decreasing" articles I've read recently (see attached image). I wonder if your area is missing kids in general -- birth rates dropped pretty quickly during the recession of 2008-2010 and haven't recovered. This drop may be starting to affect rec sports (and school enrollment) now? I've linked a fairly recent article from the local paper near me. 

 

https://www.nj.com/data/2018/0...ell_big_trouble.html

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10 years ago kids played baseball even if they didn't want to because someone made them. Parents are less likely to make their kids play a sport, and most don't have passion for it anyway so they'd rather play video games. Nothing wrong with it, just the way it is.

2019OF posted:

10 years ago kids played baseball even if they didn't want to because someone made them. Parents are less likely to make their kids play a sport, and most don't have passion for it anyway so they'd rather play video games. Nothing wrong with it, just the way it is.

I think this is part of it on the youth level.  Go back to the 1970's.  There was no youth soccer, LAX, ice hockey, etc.  You wanted your kid to do something outside in the spring, he played baseball.  Today, if the parent just wants to get them off the couch, there's other sports to "play" where you can also "hide" better on the field if you really don't have the skill for it.

Our Little League is getting smaller because they recently started a try out program that runs from about third grade through just prior to high school. It seems to be working — most kids play both for a couple of years, and then sort themselves into "going to play in the future so I'll just do travel" and "this is a fun hobby, no pressure, I'll do little league."

As for high school, we too do not have try outs. We probably could, but there's a no cut policy. So we have lots of kids on the team, and eventually some leave cause they get no playing time. Others find a role keeping stats, cheering on their teammates, or chasing foul balls and hanging out with their friends. One kid had been a gymnast. His role was doing a back flip after every win. Weirdly, the boys who played said they really wanted to win just to see the back flip.

We have about 20,000 in our town.

I think it is going to depend on your region.  When my kids were in high school 5-10 years ago, I noticed lacrosse gaining HUGE popularity in Virginia among public schools.   The private schools already had it, but this became a major noticeable shift a few years ago to public schools.  I can only assume it has continued.

Hockey is HUGE here, and grabs a lot of athletes who play even during the summer, but soccer has grown a lot, also. I think kids get frustrated learning the skills that baseball demands, whereas chasing around after a ball or puck is simpler(not necessarily easier). Just 5 years ago we had enough for two large Freshman teams(16-18). this year we might only have one. There will be half the amount trying out. 

  I also worry that MLB is mismanaged, and are totally losing the young demographic due to the slow play, and a couple of other issues. Both my sons are ballplayers, and pretty good ones, yet neither will do more than watch some highlight videos of a game. Almost no one copies the batting styles of the MLB players like we used to do ("look at me, I'm Dave Parker/Tony C/ Yaz/Morgan"). 

To start, demographics have changed. There are less kids now. Schools have smaller enrollments. Some are closing. Where I live part time imagine one of the oldest high school sports rivalries in the US is considering merging. The idea is very unpopular with the area lifers. But the numbers make it a logical reality.

When I played LL in this town (population 60,000) there were ten LL’s with 4-6 teams. Now there is one LL with ten teams. Travel isn’t the competition. The better kids play both. The competition is every sport is available as a summer sport now and not playing any sport at all (unless you consider esports a sport).

When my son played LL (SE PA) we had eight teams of twelve. Last year they had eight teams of eleven. But it’s a growing area I used to describe as where suburban meets rural. It’s definitely suburban now. But even so, enrollment is in decline.

Add: Back when my son was nine lots of kids bailed on baseball if they weren’t good. I wondered then what the effect would be when their kids grow up not loving baseball and/or only playing through two years of failure. 

 

 

 

57special posted:

Hockey is HUGE here, and grabs a lot of athletes who play even during the summer, but soccer has grown a lot, also. I think kids get frustrated learning the skills that baseball demands, whereas chasing around after a ball or puck is simpler(not necessarily easier). Just 5 years ago we had enough for two large Freshman teams(16-18). this year we might only have one. There will be half the amount trying out. 

  I also worry that MLB is mismanaged, and are totally losing the young demographic due to the slow play, and a couple of other issues. Both my sons are ballplayers, and pretty good ones, yet neither will do more than watch some highlight videos of a game. Almost no one copies the batting styles of the MLB players like we used to do ("look at me, I'm Dave Parker/Tony C/ Yaz/Morgan"). 

While hockey is EXPENSIVE, there's another element to it, at least by me.  They don't slot by age.  My son had a classmate who "played" hockey for a few years.  He was not really an athletic kid and this surprised me.  When I shared this with my son, he told me (at that time):  "He's in the 7th grade and playing with and against 4th graders.  They won't move him up until he's passed their skills test."  Something like that makes it easier for a kid to play who might otherwise be pushed out because he can't keep up with his grade.

Your sons are not alone.  My son is a full blown baseball rat.  He's at it 7 days a week, in some fashion, and 12 months a year.  He lives for the sport and can't get enough reps, etc.  That said, he can't watch more than 3 innings of a baseball broadcast without moving on to something else.  Go to a game?  Yes, he's fine watching a game live, in person.  But, he's watching it for strategy and things like that.  He's not watching it because he has a favorite player or something.  In fact, he doesn't even "root" for a team like I did as a kid.  When I was his age, and the Yankees lost a game, I couldn't sleep that night because I was pissed off.  Him?  The Yankees could lose 20 in a row and he would think it's funny.  He's got no vested interest in a team other than the one he's playing for...

But, in general, kids are different today.  I have 3 TVs in my house.  Both of my kids never watch them, not since they were like 10 years old.  They watch stuff on their phones or pads or laptops.  The days of a family sitting in front of a TV and watching something together are over.  Me?  Some of the best memories that I have of my youth are sitting in the living room and watching Yankees games on TV with my dad from (around) 1975 to 1990.  We had A LOT of fun watching those games.  Today, I have to find other ways to have quality time with my kids.  It's just a different time.

Praise God Francis my senior son still watches TV with us at least 3-4 nights a week.  He has a TV in his room and the PS4 and other stuff but he still sits there with us, most of the time without us asking.  He gets out of school three days a week at lunch and watches TV in the afternoons before practice.  He may still have his phone or other device in his hand while watching TV, but so do I.

those days are not gone for everyone.

A few reasons other than what has been mentioned. 

1) Kids don't play outside anymore. Wiffle ball, stick ball, wall ball, touch football, street hockey, riding bikes, etc. How often does that happen now? Video Games, iPhones, Netflix, and lazy parents are killing youth sports. Kids used to get in trouble for breaking neighbor's windows. Now they get in trouble for cracking the iPad screen.

2). Failure. When kids start separating in talent at 9/10/11. Instead of working to get better they quit. With most sports being year round now, they join a spring basketball league, or pick up lacrosse. Or even worse, they do nothing. Growing up, everybody played at least 2 sports. Many played 3. Now some kids don't play any sports. They come home from school and do nothing. Which leads me to #3

3). Poor Parenting. There was another thread recently where a HS player didn't want to play baseball anymore. Not for everybody fine. But unless there is another meaningful activity or a serious interest (school clubs, instrument, school genius, etc) there is no reason to do absolutely nothing. Barring any sort of physical ailment, I don't understand how a kid can not play a sport, not be involved in some sort of club, or be some all A's whiz kid in school. I see more and more kids in my area not playing any sports, but they're not good students either. I blame parenting. If your kid doesn't want to do something, fine. But he can't not do anything. Lazy parenting breeds lazy children. 

Parenting has worked it’s way into the thread. So ....

Whenever I’m in a coffee shop, McD’s or whatever and see a parent on a cell ignoring a kid I think ...

I’d like to walk over there, knock the cell out of his/her hand and snap at them, “Give your damn kid some attention!”

When the woman I was dating at the time got her first smart phone she was a little over the top about it. It was out at dinner in a restaurant. I told her if she didn’t put it away it would end up in the soup. She informed me we didn’t have soup. I told her the woman sitting against the wall on the other side of the restaurant does. 

RJM posted:

We had a house with several tv’s, X Boxes and laptops. The kids had cells. None of this stuff was allowed in their bedroom. 

I wasn't knocking technology, I was knocking the irresponsible use of tech. I'm sure we've had every console in the house at some point. Kids should still be able to do what other kids do, but I see a ton that center their life around it. 

I agree with the statements above that kids don't play outside as much anymore. As a kid I remember heading outside at 9 am and not coming home until dark.

Our local rec league has strong participation, so much so that there aren't enough fields to have practices once the season starts. So kids are scheduled for 7 or 8 practices before the season and 2 or 3 of those are usually rained out.

So now kids are thrown into the game without getting any quality practice time (and they don't play catch or wiffle ball or stickball at home). At least half of the coaches have an "it's my destiny to win the rec league championship" mentality so the kids with lesser skills get minimal playing time. These kids feel embarrassed out there an the field and in actual fear of a ball coming near them.

I coached rec ball again last fall with 11-13 year olds and as it happens every year I was once again surprised that half the kids still had no idea how to throw a baseball. So I'm supposed to teach these kids "big boy baseball" with leadoffs, pick offs, balks, and infield fly rules and half the team still doesn't understand when a runner is forced out and when he needs to be tagged.

It's no wonder that kids give up the game before high school. Why would they want to play when no one teaches them how to play the game and they are throttled by lack of facilities? It's like saying, "Here, you're out of college now go be an astronaut."

My solution is that there needs to be an emphasis on coaching as well as a suburban push by MLB. Major League Baseball does a pretty good job bringing the Play Ball program to urban areas, but they need to hit the suburbs as well. MLB also needs a youth coaching initiative and local rec leagues need more league wide baseball skills clinics ALL SEASON LONG to supplement team practices. Lastly, more MLB players need to step up like George Springer to provide more baseball fields throughout the country.

I refused to buy anything electronic for my kids and only 1 TV in house.  That lasted until about 2006 when oldest turned 12.  At that point my wife caved and bought PlayStation and Nintendo.  Kids still sat in living room because of 1 TV.  When I came home no more video stuff so there was a limit.

Wife went to next level a couple of years later with a couple of TV's at yard sales.  Not hooked up to cable but that was the end of kids in the living room.  

Then came the phones.  I have battled them all over their rudeness and have actually given them the Jethro Gibbs cuff a time or two.  The sickening thing is they don't consider it rude to ignore people.  It quickly reached a point where the only time they talked to me was when they wanted something.

Over the last 10 years have had a number of nasty altercations with them all for breaking off in the middle of a conversation to see what bonged on the phone.

I cannot imagine anything worse in the world than everyone in it being able to try to talk to me when they want to.  Who knows maybe someday I will feel different but I will have to buy a cell to find out. 

Very unlikely unless I am made to by the phone companies.  Or the government so that when it is time for me to die they can find me and drill me with something off a drone.  Just hope it won't be my political opinion that does me in but rather I have totally outlived any usefulness. 

Pretty sure my kids have a poll on their phone and have voted that getting their inheritance sooner than later would be a good thing.  I heard it was about 83% of millennials voting that way in the poll.  It was considered good for income equality and would mean adulting can be put off for another 40 years.  It even might make it into the Green New Deal when that finally hits Congress.

If you remember the time before 9/11 - Keep your heads on a swivel and remember to serpentine...serpentinel!  

Around here it's tackle football that's really shrinking at the youth level, not baseball. A friend of mine has been involved for 10 years in the local junior all-american football program -- they used to have six teams of 33 players each (~200 kids) playing tackle football, but the last couple of years they have been able to field only four teams, and most of them aren't close to full. Numbers are down 40-50%, in an area with a stable population of kids.

FWIW, 2006-2008 (kids turning 11-12-13 this year) were huge birth years in the U.S., averaging 4.3 million births. In fact, 2007 exceeded the peak year during the baby boom. So it's not a shortage of kids, at least not at the national level (individual cities and towns could have very different trends).

luv baseball posted:

I refused to buy anything electronic for my kids and only 1 TV in house.  That lasted until about 2006 when oldest turned 12.  At that point my wife caved and bought PlayStation and Nintendo.  Kids still sat in living room because of 1 TV.  When I came home no more video stuff so there was a limit.

My son is 13 and I have yet to buy him a phone. It will be a long while before that happens. He does have a Playstation and an XBox but rarely uses them. However, he does have a personal tablet and a school tablet and those can be issues at times.
 
To combat this I have set up my network at home so that his devices are shut off from internet access after 9 pm and the network is inaccessible for him until homework time. I also block access to specific sites like YouTube during homework hours and take a peak at his screen now and then to make sure he's working. He'll try to hide something in a tab but Dad is too smart for that - I can see the reflection of the screen change!

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