Little League baseball: Play to win or play for development

From Kindgarten through 2nd grade, my son played in Little League baseball and all players were rotated through all positions during the game, and they discouraged keeping score.   Pitching was by machine. Come 3rd grade, things change:  The emphasis is now on winning. Players are selected for particular positions that they keep throughout the season.  One or two players are selected to pitch, and no others are trained in pitching.  The coach is a former minor league player with a focus on winning. If a kid can’t bat (unless it’s the lone girl on the team), he will signal them to walk or bunt.  My son hated it, and we just dropped out.

There are two pressures on the coach:  One is parents who want to see their kid’s team win at all costs, whose kids are docile enough to accept any position.  The other (apparently a great minority) are parents like myself, who want to see their 9-year-olds having fun and learning to play all the positions in the game.

I’ve never thought about this before, but apparently it’s a matter of some debate:


2 thoughts on “Little League baseball: Play to win or play for development

  1. You should always keep score and the tall kid plays first base. Anyone that can get the ball over the plate should pitch.

    The best bad ball hitters that I know are Manny Sanguillen and Yogi Berra. You would think a catcher would know the strike zone.


  2. Wow, this is an interesting takeaway. I agree with your approach, Uncle Lars! Playing to win in third grade seems aggressive. There is actually a documentary about this on Netflix called “Trophy Kids,” which explores an extreme approach to sports parententing. Some parents literally quit their jobs to side coach their kid and apply intense pressure on the kid to succeed athletically. It is a whole subculture.


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