Monday, September 08, 2008

How Good Is Too Good For Little League?

Confused, Maybe Not sent me the link to this article about a nine year old boy who can throw around 40 miles per hour. He is not allowed to pitch because he throws that fast.

The opposing coaches claim that it is a safety issue, that they are afraid of a child getting hit. That may be part of the concern, but there is another aspect as well.

"He is a very skilled player, a very hard thrower," Noble said. "There are a lot of beginners. This is not a high-powered league. This is a developmental league whose main purpose is to promote the sport."
While anyone who has ever been around little league will tell you that there is an unhealthy approach to competition, it is also true that little league is not just winning, but about learning to play the game. If this child is that overpowering on the mound, then the young hitters who face him will not learn since they simply cannot handle the speed. From a pedagogical standpoint, something central to the experience, there does seem to be a problem here.

But how good is too good? At what point should a child's natural talents disallow him from playing? Every league has teams and players that are outstanding, what would be the criteria which puts someone across the line and isn't just a challenge to opponents to step up their game, something else that sports has to teach young people? We don't want absolute parity, athletics was for me an education in learning that I could compete against people who were much better natural athletes than me if I worked harder and played smarter (and get put at the proper position -- goalies don't have to run very much in lacrosse). But how much disparity should we be willing to allow?