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Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 1998 Oct;7(4):891-918.

A developmental and psychoeducational approach to reducing conflict and abuse in little league and youth sports. The sport psychiatrist's role.

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Medical College of Pennsylvania-Hahnemann School of Medicine, Philadelphia, USA.


To stress a point made earlier, whether backyard or Little League, the tone of the youth sports experience is greatly influenced by the player and team selection process. All possible steps should therefore be taken to ensure that the draft is held on high moral ground, and that the adult participants, even on the Major Little League level, behave cooperatively rather than competitively. If it is the community's hope that Little League will "build character, and not characters," it must embrace Shields and Bredemeier's work and flood the Draft Room with the four virtues of compassion, fairness, sportspersonship, and integrity. In one attempt to achieve fairness and balance, some leagues enter player evaluations into a data base and allow a properly programmed computer to project equal teams. It might be best, however, to borrow a page from backyard baseball, and make team selection a more cooperative venture. Wolff has proposed such a draft model. He recommends that each child's name be placed on a big blackboard at the beginning of the draft. All assembled give their assessment of each child's baseball ability, and a consensus skill-level number (one through five) is entered next to each player's name. If there are 72 names, and the league wishes to form six teams of 12 players each, dividing up the rated players so that the skill levels balance would assure everyone (coaches, parents, the league, and by extension, the community) that the teams were of relatively equal strength. No coach at this point would know to which team he or she was being assigned, so there would be no motive for "stacking" a given team. Each team would be designated by a letter of the alphabet, and the six letters would be thrown into a hat. The six coaches would then blindly pick a team from the hat. If a coach desired that his or her child play on his or her team, fair adjustments (trades) could be made subject to majority agreement. The three draft models can be summarized as follows: Draft Model 1 Public tryouts Previous year rating Coach makes selections Can be very competitive, lacking in "character" Can result in very unequal teams Draft Model 2 Player evaluations placed into a data base Properly programmed computer projects equal teams Draft Model 3 All names placed on a blackboard Relative merits of players discussed Equal team drawn up and placed into a hat Adjustments can be made for coach's child If practical, this author suggests that coaches not pick a name for the team until the first team meeting or practice, when that task can be given to the children. In a symbolic way, this returns some of the sport to them while encouraging social interaction among new teammates, and helping the coach detect who the leaders are. Names of professional teams in the major sports, especially baseball, are to be avoided, as they fuel longstanding unconscious associations and fantasies, and may subtly tilt all participants toward the professional "win at all costs" mentality. No one draft model is perfect for every town, and even the most ethical attempt to achieve balance among teams can be severely tested by parents who request that their athlete be placed on the same team as another child for social or car pool reasons. Such requests are not inviolate, however. For example, they do not usually dictate placement in school classes, and car pools are frequently disrupted when children, in individual sports such as Tae Kwan Do, reach different ability levels, and so attend practices at different times. Baseball is no longer the national pasttime and, as we approach the millennium, American children have too many other attractive, competing interests and time demands to spontaneously organize a pick-up game. One coach shared with the author that his saddest moment in CAP League came when he arrived at 6 PM at a field that had been "reserved" for his team, and found a group of boys who were playing a pick-up game. The coach's impulse was to set his boys fre.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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