The numbers are down for baseball and softball sign-ups

In the last few years, it’s seemed like fewer and fewer kids have been going to tryouts, and teams have had to compete harder for the kids who did come out. I know of several programs (including the one I’ve been associated with for the last 14 years) that have had to fold teams, or that maybe took a couple of players they normally wouldn’t have just to be able to play.

But I thought maybe it was just an isolated program here or there. Turns out it’s not. I saw this article this morning in my local newspaper. It talks about how the numbers are down all across the area, and how that is part of a larger trend.

The culprit? For once it isn’t coaches who yell at the kids or anything like that. Instead, according to the article, the #1 reason is video games. Kids are opting to stay indoors and play video games rather than go outside and play sports.

There are a couple of reasons listed. One, of course, is the general sedentary nature of kids these days. Between texting, mp3 players, computers, etc. they’re just a lot more oriented toward sitting and playing with electronics than getting up and moving around.

But video games have had another effect too. According to the article, and the experts it quotes, the nature of video games have made real sports less appealing to today’s youngsters. Video games are relatively easy to learn, and offer instant gratification — as opposed to softball which can take years for most kids to just become competent.

They simply don’t have the patience for the constant repetition required to learn how to play softball. Throw in “cheat codes” in games that allow them to overcome their shortcomings by getting past obstacles and you can see where there’s a disconnect. There aren’t any cheat codes in softball.

The article says the younger ages — under 10U — are not being affected as much. But once kids get to the age where they have iPods, smart phones, maybe even their own laptops, and of course a choice of gaming consoles — the 10U to 14U range — the numbers drop off dramatically. And it’s even affecting high school sports, as fewer kids are going out for them and often the ones who are don’t have their skills developed quite as well as those of a few years ago.

So if you feel like your travel team or league has been struggling, you’re not alone. Apparently it’s happening all over.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on February 14, 2010, in General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Wow – I think you have been bugging my car. My 7yr old joined wrestling this past November. He has been kicking butt and taking numbers later. He is 17-2, we moved him up against more experienced kids and he is stil doing great. He has 6 trophies and 2 medals on his shelf of which 5 are 1st place and the remainder 2nd place. Sorry, I’m not trying to brag, but rather show you how well he has been doing and of course with this he has been getting a lot of praise – his ego couldn’t be larger. AND YET, just today I asked him if he will wrestle again next year — – – and he said no. I thought my question was simply a formality. He has had a blast and is always talking about it and practices on me at home. He said NO!! I was shocked, so I asked him why. His answer was that it is a waste of his time. What? What do you mean? He said he could be home playing Wii or Nintendo DS. My jaw dropped. This kid loves to be outside and is always moving. I just couldn’t believe it. I had some words for him. In not so short words I told him he’ll be playing something, some real sport whether it be wrestling or something else. My initial thought about the Wii was to sell it, and I still haven’t given up on that thought. We just bought the kids a gaming system for the first time for Christmas and I’m already wishing I hadn’t. I was always the uncool dad for not letting them have something like that and now that I did, I’m regretful of being…cooler to my kids. So if video games can twist a kid who is extremely successful, can you imagine what it can do to a kid who is struggling, or plays a sport where a 30% success rate (.300 ave) is good?

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  2. Teams all around me have been struggling to fill their spots, myself included. I have taken a girl I wouldn’t normally take just so I could get to 9!! I have ads up everywhere and so do my coaching friends but there just aren’t any girls available and most of the ones that are just want to play rec ball and not put in the time for select. I may have to fold my team after this year if things don’t turn around. This is at the 10U level in the St. Louis area.

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