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I wanted to start a new discussion about kids ages at the club level. As I have said before, we are a club currently with  8U coach pitch team, a 10UAAA tournament team, and an 11UAA tournament team. What I'd like to discuss is players playing with their age group as opposed to being able to play up with older kids. It seems in our club that we allow kids to do so (in my opinion because parents get too involved with wanting THEIR kid to be more advanced) where I tend to believe that each team would be better overall if they had kids of their own age level and it would make our club stronger at each level overall. This would also force our coaches to go find kids to fill their rosters as opposed to allowing the younger kid to play up. I'm sure some of you in the less populated parts of the country might not see this as an issue, but I'd like to get your opinions and of course those who are in larger communities too. My 10UAAA team is currently made up of 5 (of 12) players that are actually 9U age. We do not have a 9U team currently. I would like to form a 9U team to put these kids on along with 5 more strong 9U players. Assuming I could replace them on the 10U team with competent kids. I believe that in the long run, this is better for the kids as they ascend through the age levels of club ball. What do you guys think?  Remember, this is not Little League, it's tournament ball where kids are divided up in divsions by year (9U, 10U, 11U etc).  Thanks in advance,  Darek Goetzman

Tags: age, appropriate, baseball, club, play, up, youth

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Good Discussion Topic - If the rules allow younger kids to play and they are picked on ability and not because they are a friend's kid or something like that, then I believe they should be allowed to play up. Recreational leagues have rules that should be followed (for age) but travel ball is for advanced players.
Of course, your situation sounds a little different because of numbers and I see your point about becoming stronger at each level, but once again, if a younger player proves more qualified, I believe they should have the opportunity. What is better for the kids in the long run? can be debated too - some kids will improve by being challenged at the higher age level where others may fail at the higher age level - every situation is different - if a kid struggles they can usually fall back to their own age the following season. I believe this becomes a tougher call at the thirteen, fourteen age level when some kids hit their growth spurt sooner than others. Size and strength often matters more when the field size increases. Looking forward to other opinions because there are many angles to this question.
Here is an example: I have a kid who turned 8 this past July 15th and he plays on our 10U team. Honestly, he's one of the best players I've ever seen by his age. He played all last spring on another 10U team that is sort of a rival of ours and of course he was 7 then. So when he was on that other 10U team I noticed him as a good player (of course I had no idea how young he was) but he played left field mostly. On our 10U team he is one of our good solid pitchers, and can start at CF, 2B, and sometimes even SS. So if I had a 9U team, he'd clearly be their ace pitcher, starting SS, 3B, whatever. He is my 2 hitter right now also where he'd totally be a 3-4 guy on a 9U team. And really he's an 8U player agewise. I know this doesn't always happen, but I'd like to see him with kids his age. We sometimes scrimmage our 11U team which plays on 70' bases and a 50' mound so this kid has to adapt to that a young 8yrs old. You Little League guys need to remember that our fields change several times as we grow up to 14. Thx, Darek
Jack makes some excellent points, especially at the 13/14 age groups. I don't have a problem with a player playing up if they can messure up on talent and ability. In the end, I think the main concern is can the player get better at the upper level...if the younger player is number 11/12 on the roster then I think it makes more sense to keep them at their age level for the game experience. In the case above...it may not do the 5 younger players any good to play at 9u if the other 7 or so players picked up aren't on the same level as the first 5.
At the older levels...we place our guys on teams by graduating class. Moving up a couple that would benefit from playing the older players, and who we think can grow into leaders for their age group in the next few years.
Darek - I am from VERY rural area in Western Mass and we face this all of the time, and not just in baseball. I am a strong advocate of having kids play age appropriate and am glad that we have a system in our area that enforces it, otherwise we would get (and we DO) some of the parent wing-nuts that would force their children to play up, especially where it is not warranted. There are rare circumstances that would cause me to think otherwise, but everything has an exception so I am talking generally. I have written about this in one of my blogs titled Managing Expectations that can be found at http://tinyurl.com/CoachRick
Derek,

Great topic, Travel Baseball should be based on skill and talent level, if they are able to move up with out stuggling to fit the age bracket, but in my opinion they should play with their age bracket while they can to get playing time , the more you play the better they can become. Travel ball really doesn't have much meaning until they reach age 12-13 , if their goal is to play High School baseball , then moving up is a great thing to do since they will only have 2 -3 years to perpare to swing a -3 bat and 90 foot bases and etc.
, My Nick is awesome pitcher/catcher with a cannon for a arm and hitting over .400 for last 3 seasons , last year he was a 11U , so I let him try out for a 12U fall ball which most where 13 year olds and he made team, the point I am getting to he found out the skill level changes at the 13U age. He did ok, but did not have near the same fun if he played his age group. Playing up may work for a few , but I have seen so many fail and quit the game because they where forced to play up by the parents with the BIG ego's. .
The moral of the story I getting to is they can play up at a younger age, but for most kids that played up will find out the hard way they where not ready to do so, for those kids I hope they do not get discouraged and quit the game or have they parents push them to it is no longer fun for them to do.

They play baseball because they love the game !!!
I have extremely mixed feelings on this subject and it's a great topic. I guess my main concern is that playing up may possibly cause a young player to be over matched and ruin his confidence level. The risk of doing that is scary to me. On the other hand, if a young player is playing up, it should help him in the long run. I'm currently working with an 11 year old pitcher. I made it perfectly clear to his mother that everything I do is geared for when Will is 14 years old and will be competing with the other kids for a spot on the high school roster. The reason I mention this is because he is playing up and is NOT over matched. In a show down, I would lean toward playing up being okay, but proceed with lots of caution. It should be very positive over the long haul but it definitely has its time and place.
Darek,

I personally have no problem with playing up. In fact I don't have a problem with playing down either. I understand that in travel or tournament ball it's a little different and age means everything to TRY and make it even but in rec ball so many times I see kids that don't belong whether it be because they are to advanced or not advanced enough. I say let them play for a few games and then allow the parents or coaches to move a few of the kids to a league where the kid can actually compete. Let's give ALL kids the chance to compete and have fun playing baseball.

BTW, not very often will a kid be able to be one of the better players when moved up, but there are a ton of kids that could and should be moved down until they mature some.
Two ways of looking at this:

1) You're building a tournament team, so field the best team regardless of age.
2) You're keeping the team together for the long run, so make the team age-appropriate.

From your topic intro, it looks like you're shooting for #2...I tend to agree with Larry and Kip's viewpoint. But I also think kids should take 1/2 a year off and play other sports as well (different topic; I know I'm in the minority on this forum; no need to address).
Ted, funny you mention this about playing other sports. I've toyed with the idea of taking the same group of kids and playing Football (tackle) in the fall. Some of our kids do play football so they do take a little time off from the team. And you are right, I do wish for option #2. I am hoping these kids stay together for several years. I do not want an 11 year old playing 13U ball someday. And that someday will come a lot faster than people think. Plus, I really couldn't justify sending a kid down to a team of his age if I couldn't replace him with a kid that's as good a player or better at the time. Also, I have to have a good team to send this good player down to or else he will be bored.
That's a very good point, Darek. We have a youth "Friday Night Lights" flag football program and a Christian basketball league here in my area that does pretty much what you are suggesting.
I advocate playing up as long as (s)he will get good playing time. I think a player will get more out of playing 4-6 innings a game at an age-appropriate appropriate level, even if (s)he is far better than the rest, than playing 1-2 innings per game at a higher level.
The main thing is do the have the ability to play at a higher level. It happens to everyone. I played up in little league. I started on my state ranked HS team as a freshman. I started in a 4 yr college program as a freshman. I was always playing up. My 9yr old son played on a 11U team this past summer. If you did not know his age you would have never guessed he was 9yr. A baseball instructor asked me about him during one of our practices. Now with pro ball experience, I had no problem having him play up......I take that back I did have reservations. I expressed to my son that he needs to play above his reagular level and he did play well. One of the best on the team. If he did not do well, I would have had him finish out the season and coach him and keep his confidence up during the season and put him back at his age level. Maturity is the key at a young age, even at the pro level. The concept is the same.........not everyone is a big leaguer.

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