Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pitching Speed Gets 9-Year-Old Banned!

"Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him."
- Psalm 127:3

In yesterday's news, it was reported that 9-year-old Jericho Scott has been banned from pitching because the right-hander has a fastball that tops out at about 40mph - too fast, according to officials with the Youth Baseball League of New Haven, Connecticut. The league told Jericho's coach that the boy could not pitch any more.

The Youth Baseball League of New Haven has been around for three years and has eight teams with about 100 players. Officials for the league said they would disband Jericho's team and redistribute its players among other squads and even offered to refund $50 sign-up fees to anyone who asks for it.

However, Jericho's coach refuses to disband the team and parents and players held a protest on the field last Saturday urging the league to let Jericho pitch. Although there is speculation as to why Jericho is being unfairly targeted (he turned down an invitation to join the defending league champion, which is sponsored by an employer of one of the league's administrators), the fact remains that he is being punished for being too good!

According to Jericho's coach, he's never hurt anyone and he's on target with his pitches all the time. But some parents have expressed concern. An opposing team forfeited a game last week when Jericho took the mound.

"I think it's discouraging when you're telling a 9-year-old you're too good at something," said his mother, Nicole Scott. "The whole objective in life is to find something you're good at and stick with it."

The league's attorney, Peter Noble, says the only factor in banning Jericho from the mound is his pitches are just too fast.

"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."

Of course, Jericho is upset and wants to play baseball, as any child of his age may enjoy doing.

"I feel sad," Jericho said. "I feel like it's all my fault nobody could play."

A simple solution to this issue, in my opinion, is to allow Jericho to continue playing but encourage him to play a variety of positions on the team (not just pitcher) and ask him to pitch a little slower. However, I have a few opinions about this and I want to address a couple of them.

I agree that Jericho should be allowed to play. It's unfair to say that he is "too good" to play. He shouldn't be banned from pitching because his fastball is faster than most. Why would we want to tell our children that they are too good at something and hinder them from doing what they enjoy and are good at? This sends a negative message to children who want to play, have fun and enjoy participating in recreational athletics (These are good things! Fit, healthy children that enjoy playing games and sports is good for our youth and our society).

As long as they are not hurting anyone (including themselves), and as long as they are not being coerced or forced to perform at a level that is not at their developmental age (something that is happening a lot these days resulting in injuries never seen before - see this blog story), I see nothing wrong with them playing a sport at which they may be better at than other kids. It's a fact of life that some children develop and excel faster than others in some instances, and as long as it's not harmful to the developmental stage of the child, then it's perfectly okay.

However, I also completely agree with attorney Peter Noble that the league is a developmental league whose main purpose is to promote the sport and build fundamentals. But banning Jericho because he pitches faster than others shouldn't be a problem if he is on target and not hitting anyone. It may make it harder for other kids to bat against him, and if that is the issue, then just ask him to slow down his pitches or have him play another position!

Although I agree that Jericho should be allowed to pitch, I have a few concerns, and some of these may contradict what I just wrote above.

If Jericho is being encouraged to play little league baseball at a high level by his parents or coaches, or if he is beginning to specialize in baseball and not continue to play other sports or play as a child of his age should be doing, then I would be hesitant to allow him to keep pitching.

Because I don't know his background and what else he is doing or what his parents and coaches are training or encouraging him to do, it's hard to know if this is what is happening. However, those are valid concerns for a child of his age. At 9 years old, Jericho is still in the developmental stages of his physical development. Having him specialize in a particular sport or work on biomotor qualities (speed, strength, etc.) would be detrimental to him during this stage of his development.

He should be playing games (and running, jumping, crawling, etc.) with other children in his age range while playing a variety of sports throughout the year. These things will help him develop properly and prevent injuries or long-term issues. I would recommend that he play multiple sports throughout the year and also multiple positions on the baseball team, not just as pitcher.

I wanted to address this because I'm currently studying for my Level 1 Certification with the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA). Once I pass my exam, I will be on my way to becoming a Youth Fitness Specialist.

I've already learned how children develop at different stages in life (6-9; 10-13; 14-18) and how the type of training and activities they participate in is very important in order to avoid injury, stay fit, be healthy, and most of all...have FUN!

Youth sports and fitness is something that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, there are too many coaches (and parents) that are injuring today's youth and treating them as mini-adults because they don't understand the developmental process or how to teach children effectively. I'm looking forward to being a positive influence for today's youth and helping them develop properly while making youth fitness fun!

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