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You see the numbers dwindling in your organization? Have you sent email after email and post after post about signing up for the Spring season? Email campaigns, social media marketing, in person registrations, car washes, dunk tanks, fireworks, celebrity appearances – you have tried it all to get kids to sign up for baseball. Kids don’t sign up for baseball, their parents and/or guardians do that job.
Recent numbers suggest that Marvel Studios new “Avengers:End Game” will surpass all expectations in terms of box office attendance. The movie lasts about 3 hours, maybe a bit more with the trailers. 3 hours of action packed fight scenes, spaceships, villains vs heroes, special effects that will blow your mind. Millions and millions of moviegoers have gone to see this movie in the past week. But, millions and millions of these moviegoers, namely kids, have no drivers license and thus do not drive to the theaters, their parents and/or guardians do that job.
Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are primarily viewed by adults. My teenage sons do not use Twitter and Facebook. They use other apps like Instagram and Snapchat to communicate their messages to their friends and fans of their work (I have a musician and artist who post regularly). Most social media marketing for youth baseball is centered around information to parents about registration, fun events like Home Run Derby, picture day, and scheduling of games. How many leagues speak directly to the players themselves? The Tee Baller to Coach Pitch players under 8 typically do not have social media accounts. Nor do Minor leaguers not yet in Middle School age. Who is speaking to those players about a fun event coming up? The kids are not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram looking at photos of themselves hitting a single or sliding into home plate, their parents and/or guardians do that job.
Travel baseball teams have formed in Rhode Island and across the United States in huge numbers. AAU and showcase teams give the youth baseball player the opportunity to play an additional set of games and tournaments in addition to their recreation and/or community based program. AAU and showcase teams are more expensive (on average) than recreation programs. However, you get custom batting gloves, custom jerseys, custom baseball bags with AAU and travel teams. Most AAU programs are attached to an indoor baseball facility which is open year round for practice, quality instruction, and team building. “The players and the competition are typically a more advanced youth baseball player”, as was explained to me by a long time RI AAU coach recently, “sort of like playing district level baseball every game.” The state and regional tournaments can bring a youth baseball player local, statewide, even regional exposure to collegiate and pro scouts. Travel baseball teams use social media, websites, and email marketing to promote themselves. These posts and emails go to the parents of players. Most kids I know don’t have $1000 and up in their piggy banks to sign up for an AAU baseball program nor do they respond to emails from coaches about signing up for teams and tournaments, their parents and/or guardians do that job.
A lot of youth sports and recreational activities are encouraged by parents who have prior participation in these sports or activities. A parent that played soccer in high school will most likely sign their son or daughter up for soccer. A mom who played basketball in college will most likely sign up her son or daughter in basketball. This sporty parent has a familiarity with the sport, can potentially assist with coaching, is engaged by the sport because they have played the sport before and know the rules. Along with the coaching staff of a particular sport, the parent is a support person as a young athlete builds their enjoyment of a particular sport. If a player has a bad game or a bad experience, the parent is often front and center for the “why didn’t I play shortstop” or “why did I bat last” or “why didn’t they pass me the ball” questions. If a parent is encouraging and positive, the player learns to deal with adversity and a bad experience and looks to make their next experience a more positive one. If the parent chooses to blame the coach or another player or something unrelated to the game, the player learns to deal with adversity and a bad experience by adding additional negativity to the situation. This negativity causes their enjoyment of the game to dwindle, until they now longer wish to participate. As a youth baseball player, errors will happen in a practice and a game. Once a youth baseball player leaves the field, gets into their parents/guardians’ car, heads home, runs up to their bedroom, slams the door, and starts crying because they struck out with the bases loaded on a questionable called third strike, their coach is not responsible for following that child, consoling him/her about their game performance, and reminding the child that their team wouldn’t have been in the playoffs if it weren’t for him/her all season, their parents and/or guardians do that job.
In closing, all the posts, blogs, articles, memes, and negativity about kids not signing up for baseball needs to stop. Kids do not sign up for baseball. Their parents and/or guardians do that job. Parents choose what movie to bring their kids to. Parents choose to read emails about picture day or Home Run Derby events or registration activities. Parents choose a path of psychology when it comes to a negative event in their child’s athletic career. Parents ultimately decide if their child will sign up for baseball or not. We need to stop blaming kids for playing soccer and playing travel baseball and not signing up for our youth baseball leagues. It is not their fault.