Why the Little League World Series should not be on TV
Posted August 10, 2012
Updated December 9, 2013
I was 10 years old and we were one win away from winning the National Championship in softball. It was the softball equivalent of the Little League World Series. This was HUGE! At least it felt that way for me. I was 10. When you are 10, things tend to feel bigger than they are. Plus, I’d spent my entire summer practicing for three hours a day. I probably would have preferred to spend my summer at a pool, eating a snow cone. But I spent the hot Florida summers on the softball field- everyday. So there I was in the national championship game. We only had to beat this team once. They had to beat us twice. We’d beaten the pulp out of them all summer, so the national championship was in the bag.
I played third base. I was a slick fielder with good reflexes. I was much better in the field than I was at the plate. I had a solid arm for a ten year old. I had a really good future ahead in the sport if I chose to pursue that future. I get teased a lot for my height. I’m 5’1’’ with heels, but I was blessed with very good athletic ability. Sports just come naturally to me. So I was good at softball.
This was not my day, though. I struck out a couple of times. I was just tired. It happens. I just wish it didn’t happen at the worst time ever. We lost the first game. No big deal. We’d surely win the second game. Here’s where the story gets good, or bad depending on your perspective. We were up one in the last inning. The other team had bases loaded. We were one out away from the win. Their star player was up. The last time she was at bat, she hit it right to me and I proceeded to let the ball go under my legs. The error gave them a run. So the girl comes up again and my coach calls timeout and calls me over. He pointed at me and said, “listen… don’t let the damn ball go under your legs again.” I was 10. Tears filled my eyes. I was tired. She hit the ball right at me and the ball went under my legs, to the fence and we lost.
I could not have felt worse. At least I thought that was the case. I accepted my runner-up medal and walked over to collect my things. It was at this moment I thought I would go apologize to my coach for letting him down. I went around the dugout and overheard my coach saying to another coach, “The B**ches lost it for me.”
That’s why I hate to see the Little League World Series on TV. This is not for the kids. It’s for parents and it’s for coaches (like my old coach) who are living out some fantasy of being Vince Lombardi with a bunch of 9 year olds. Yes. I am sure there are exceptions, but I cannot imagine how much worse I would have felt if my major error was broadcast for the entire country to see.
Before you tell me I’m just bitter, hear me out. I’ve been covering local sports for almost ten years. While I meet some youth sports coaches who are in it for the kids, I meet many more who are big time jerks. You get the distinct feeling they are taking out all of their past athletic failures on the kids. I’ve seen young kinds screamed at on the field like they lost the Super Bowl. I’ve seen a youth football coach spit chewing tobacco in the face of a kid who couldn’t have been 12. I’ve seen far too much ugliness to be convinced my experience playing high level youth sports was unique.
I played softball one more year and gave it up because I was burned out at 11. I was tired of being screamed at. I was tired of hearing words no little girl should hear. Youth sports needs a major reality check for what it’s really about. It needs to be about kids dreaming of being on TV…someday. There is no reason to put them on TV now. It’s already HUGE to them. Parents and coaches should remember that.