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How to build a Little League World Series team in 3 years?

I just returned from the World Series and my 9 year old is already
dreaming about playing on a world series team when he's 12. During
practice, we had the opportunity to talk to some of the coaches and
players. Some teams had been together on a travel team since they were
8 other teams just got together (Minnesota), most players liked
baseball but very few were baseball only and all of the coaches we
talked to were just Dads with other jobs. So the question is does
anyone have any advice on, "how to build a Little League World Series
team in 3 years"? You can email me also at

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Hi Paul!
I was at Williamsport Friday & Saturday also. I have coached Little League for 21 years,
As competitive as I am, I have chosen not to coach in post season All Stars for the last 12 years-another story for another time. As far as building a Little League World Series team in three years, it will take a combination of
hard work and a lot of luck. Plus your Little League player pool must be large. I am in Rockland County
New York and a town up here, Stony Point (NY) is competitive every year. Their player pool is large and from what I hear,
the league functions as a league M-Sat. and on Sundays, there is a travel team composed of players from that Little League. Now the travel team part is unconfirmed but I believe it. Our league plays a 20 game schedule. I'm told other leagues play up to 30-40 games per year. Pitching is definitely the key and two strong pitchers are almost a must.
But it all starts on the level below the Majors and the fundamentals that are taught. Coordinating a program with an enthusiastic High School baseball coach is something I would do. There are probably tons of coaches who know more than me who have been to Williamsport. But I would look into mirroring successful leagues. Feel free to contact me!

Best Regards
Marty Schupak

Thanks for the info Marty. It sounds like Stony Point has an excellent program. I like the idea of reserving one day for travel play.
I hope I'm not out of line, and I know this will possibly start a spirited debate, but I think the priorities are askew for this question...a good coach is task-based, not goal-oriented. For example: John Wooden was a task-based coach. He never dwelled on championships or winning. But his teams did more of both than any other team.

A parent's goal of having his pre-teen kid play baseball shouldn't be to "be the best they can be" or to make it to the LLWS - it should simply be to have fun and develop a kid's passion for the game so they want to play even more in the future. The pomp and pagentry of the LLWS and travel ball "win or die" weekend travel tourneys can be intoxicating (especially for the parents). But in the end, it's a simply matter of this: Does your son want to play so much that he sleeps with his glove during the off-season?

As a high school and college coach, it pains me to see parents pushing these young kids so hard at such a young age in travel ball. It seems fun at the time, but what approach to life are you actually instilling in your kid when you play "live or die" at such a young age, and then pump him up by telling him he's so good he's made it on an "elite" travel team? And if you disagree with this statement, then please tell me if you'd keep your kid on that same team if they constantly lose?

Another thing - all this talk about high school baseball...

Think about how many "premier" travel and all star teams there are that feed into your local high school. I've got PONY, 3 Little Leagues, Cal Ripkin and at least 6 "elite" travel teams in just the 12U category. Two of the travel teams require 100% participation year-round with a 1 month break, and prohibit the kids from playing in rec leagues all-together.

Here's my point: How many of those parents have been told that their kid has a legitimate shot at making the high school team? Because on a varsity HS team, there are maybe 6 or 7 kids in the same class that make the team - and that's it. Studies have proven that pre-puberty performance and training have absolutely no bearing on whether a kid makes the high school team. Anything you teach an 8, 10 or 12 year old with private lessons and tons of travel ball, I can quickly, efficiently teach to a motivated, athletic 14 year old with just a few years of little league experience...with better long term results. As a high school coach, I'll take an athletic rookie with passion over a technically-sound but less athletic kid every time.

It's harsh, but puberty changes EVERYTHING.

So if my rant hasn't totally turned you off by now, use Wooden's insights as a road map. The focus shouldn't be on getting to the LLWS, it should be to play each game, each practice, each at-bat, and each pitch successfully - emotionally, mentally, and physically. And that preparation starts before even setting foot on the ball field. A good coach focuses on these 3 areas for each individual kid, and gets buy in from the parents to reinforce them at home. Winning takes care of itself.

Focus on fun and fundamentals...not winning and losing.
Ted, You are right on the money and who doesn't respect Wooden ? We just returned from Cooperstown. Out of 104 teams we finished 17th. The team had been together for 2 1/2 months. Not too shabby. But I would bet the highlight of the trip was the day at the lake, they absolutely loved it. Puberty is without a doubt the great equalizer. Of course, early good fundamentals don't hurt and teaching the love of THE GAME. Plant the seed early and watch it grow...
You are right about puberty changing things and many kids tend to peak at 12 but the one thing I know from many years of training kids at every age level is this, and please don't take offense but HS coaches are severely overrated in respect to their effect on players ability. With baseball being a muscle memory sport it is imperative that kids create good habits and techniques at a young age because it gets much harder to change bad habits as they get older and by HS it's pretty well set
I have seen many coaches recruit a great athlete with no experience, to play baseball and it never works out the way they want, baseball is not that kind of sport, it's more like golf where correct repetitions are more important than athletic ability!
We also need to remember that size is not important either, we are not going to wrestle the other team.
HS programs are little more than a product of their feeder system and the best players typically had dads that were working with them very young, or were playing a lot of travel ball and getting private instruction.
I've worked with a lot of HS age kids and they are impossible to change much but I can teach a 10 yr old to throw upside down and backwards easier and it will become habit quickly!
To answer the main topic question, from a coaching perspective you cannot plan to go to the world series and there is no formula for doing that because it requires pure luck on top of the skill so you do have to be task oriented but on the other hand the kids love to dream and theres nothing wrong with setting goals for them.
It seems like the best teams I've had were the most heart breaking for the kids because the closer you get the more they start to believe and at every level there can be only one winner and everyone else goes home in tears but that's the agony of defeat and that's a lesson they need to learn as well.
And the funny thing is the kids get over it a lot faster than the adults do, so don't be afraid to help them dream that's why they play!
You make some good points, Rick. My job isn't to overhaul, it's to tweak. At our level, it's up to us to show them the path, but it's up to the kid to take it. That's why passion is so important. I agree that being a technically-sound player coming into high school gives you a leg up.

My contention is that a technically-sound 14 year old player with average ability and the "job mentality" outlook (fostered by an early travel ball career) will eventually lose out to an athletic kid with less experience but a joy and passion for the game. Please realize that I never said "no" experience. I said "little" experience. By this, I mean kids that may have played when they were kids, but not travel ball, and have definitely very little private tutoring.

We are in, to put it mildly, an urban, economically-diverse area. We have no budget. Our field looks like something out of Sandlot. There is a HUGE disparity between the "haves" and "have nots". Yes, we have travel kids, mostly from upper-middle class white homes. But we also have a large population of those that aren't from that environment. Yet we're competitive in one of the top 5 leagues in So California. Why?

I'd like to think that it's the coaching, but I know better.

In my area's ethnic culture, baseball is almost a religion. Families get together and have pickup games of baseball and softball every weekend. Even the mothers and sisters play (and some of those sisters could probably teach some little leaguers some lessons!). I truly think that it's because we understand the community and give every incoming freshman a shot, regardless of his baseball resume. Every kid that wants to pay the price suits up. And we let them be on the freshman team as long as they understand up front that they may not see one inning of play.

And then we wait to see which kids want it the most.

This year, my top two pitchers are a football QB and a basketball player - both with no travel experience, and both with legit post-high school prospects. I know this is painful for some people to experience, but this isn't as uncommon as you might think. There are many kids who, for one reason or another, stopped playing when they were kids or played other sports, and then decided when they were 13 or 14 (a HS freshman) that they wanted to play. Those are the kids that are going to give travel parents fits if they make the team and their kid doesn't.
`I do agree, most of the teams are AAU travel teams, I know the Tx, Ca, North East, Fl and other have played over 60 games to get ready to ready for this tournament. This is how they build these teams
Many years ago I was in Keene N.H. and read an article in the local paper about the LL Champions that year. The article was written about a coach that had achieved exactly what you are asking. (The coach was the coach of a N.H. Championship team). He had such an amazing attitude and plan it made a permanent impression on me, and it was very simple.

The coach had said at 9 he understood, going through this before, he was not coaching a 9 year old state championship team, nor 10 or 11. What he was doing was pacing himself to build the best 12 year old team he could. Each year he would concentrate on different parts of the game and growing the players to be better players. The focus was not on the return at hand.

It took 3 years of keeping to the plan and he succeeded in his goal. I wish I had understood that when my team was 9, 10,11,12,13,14...
You cant teach a child to love the game, they do or dont.

Secondly, all this training, travel teams, ESPN at LLWS is simply making the kids playing a game a business at age 9,10,11 and 12. At this age it is simply about maturing faster than other kids. Do you realize 70% of kids drop out of sports by age 13 because they feel stressed and over worked? Age 13 . . .

I am not sure who is worse the parents or coaches. I though long ago coaches should be trained people, not parents paid a nominal fee like a umpire. Strict guide lines of fairness for all players. Parents should not be allowed to do anything but cheer. Is there anything worse than a loud mouth parent at a kids game?

Someone wrote give me a 14 year old who loves to play with no experience. Amen, he/she is there because he wants to play. Dad is not living his dream through the child. Another coach wrote the best day was at the lake, amen, I bet that meant more to those kids than anything.

I was at a Pro Ball Camp for fun 3 years ago and the MLB coaches and scouts detail that many or most MLB pitchers never throw a pitch until later in life and those pitching in Little League/AAU/Travel teams have a extremely high rate of injury. Looking at the LLWS, I have to wonder how many pitches are these kids throwing March - August and many of these kids are also playing AAU and other leagues. How do coaches know how many pitches these kids are throwing elsewhere? In the end more is being done to hurt them than help them. The rate of arm surgeries for kids under age 18 has skyrocketed..

I quit coaching because of parents, playing time issues and the arguing from the parents with umpires and so on. The kids were never a problem. It is a real sad day when I see 12 year old kids on ESPN. ESPN is profiting, as well as many others and what does the child really get out of this? 7 of 10 will be burned out by age 13, if they keep playing and pitching a arm surgery awaits them.

At the Hall of Fame Dale Petrosky said it best, at every level the number is 1%, 1% of little leagues move to next level, 1% of HS plays in college, 1% goes to MLB farm system, 1% makes the major leagues. 1% of MLB players make the HOF. So if your pushing your child just remember it is 1% at every level. You think he/she is that 1%? Let them play some but don't forget the days at the lake either.
I’ll do something those on their high horse aren’t doing and answer the question. How to build a world series Little League Team in 3 years? Whether it’s a worthy goal or not is up to the coaches, the parents, and most importantly the kids.

Know that your chances are slim. There are many factors that are out of your control like geography, talent pool, league politics and luck. I do see the same leagues make appearances or deep runs year after year though. So some groups are definitely pursuing this goal and succeeding.

The first hurdle is the Little League structure/by-laws/politics/etc. I’m not familiar with the exact regulations (I deal strictly with travel-ball) but I believe the all-star teams are supposed to be set up through charters which are based on the size of the particular league you are in. This means the more kids participating determines the number of all-star teams your league is required to field. There are also mechanisms in place meant to prevent a league from stacking one all-star team with all the perceived best players on one team. So either you have a small talent pool that only requires the league to field one team, or you have a large talent pool but you are required to split your best players between several teams. I expect the system is meant to allow a fair number of children to participate in all-stars while keeping the teams being fielded somewhat level. This is unarguably a good policy. I can only assume that many if not most of the teams you see making an appearance in the World Series have in some way circumvented these policies. I’d like to think unintentionally but probably deliberately. A good piece of evidence is that many of the teams we see in the World series have been playing together as a travel team long before (years in some cases) the all-star teams are officially picked. In my book this is cheating, but that determination should be made by the kids, the parents and most importantly the coaches.

The second hurdle is pitching. You need a minimum of two and realistically four high level pitchers to run deep. That will probably mean giving up some wins today in order to give anyone with pitching potential the experience and composure on the mound that will allow you to win tomorrow. There is no substitute in practice for pitching in a real game situation. No issues there. However, you should probably teach those pitchers to develop a curve ball as well. Many people will say all you need is a couple of fast-balls and a change up, but 3 out of 4 kids taking the mound in the LLWS throw full on curves (knees buckling and arms snapping). The bottom line is if they are throwing breaking balls and you aren’t, they are getting an edge. To go the LLWS you will need every leg up you can get. We all know of or about at least one kid out there with a ruined arm and nothing to show for it except a few trophies. Honestly, most kids will be fine throwing a curve and will only suffer minor injuries during their career. But you will be encouraging and assisting a young talent to take a very real chance with his well being while he is nowhere near old enough to make that decision himself. Is the risk worth it? That will have to be decided by the coaches, kids, and most importantly the parents.

The last hurdle is to coach and manage a top notch level of high quality baseball consistently improving through the years. You must motivate, build fundamentals, develop proper mechanics, improve character, maintain dedication, identify and correct deficiencies, maintain cohesion, and etc. Don’t forget your dealing with kids 12 years or younger. So while you do all this, you must also keep it fun and rewarding or they will lose interest anyway. Pulling off even a fraction of those things can be a handful by themselves. I personally prefer to focus on the last hurdle and ignore the first two all together.

I believe it’s not only acceptable but beneficial to make winning the main priority (I did not say only priority). When the kids reach 9,10, 11, and definitely 12 they are keeping score and so should you. I coach to win and I only want kids who play to win. I’m very selective and I search them out wherever I can find them. My son and I left Little League for travel-ball early on so we wouldn’t have to contend with hurdle 1. None of the kids on my team are allowed to throw a cure in my presence because there are many concessions I won’t make, and that’s one of them. So hurdle two is no issue. Hurdle three kicks my butt constantly but I do alright, and more importantly the boys do outstanding. I make this last point because there are plenty of people who disapprove of my brand of baseball, because it is very elitist, just as there are those who disapprove of your stated goal. I don’t feel the need to indulge the dissenters and neither should you. Your goal is a lofty one and that should be a good thing. It’s quite obvious I don’t have the same goal but I disagree with the forum (Little League) not the goal (winning). Some of the people who got all self righteous on you made statements like “a goal should not be to be the best they can be” and, “Most kids won’t make the High School team anyway”. I would never consider saying anything like that to my boys. It’s not about raising the next Derek Jeter. It is about success and failure (not only in sports), and those statements to not reflect a successful attitude. So teach them to shoot for the stars, and if they land on the moon that’s not to bad.
This is so wrong on so many different levels that I don't know where to start...
thanks Ty, finally someone answered the question.


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