Too Good To Play Ball?

October 2nd, 2008 by Kathy McManus

What happens when one student athlete is far better than the others?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

A recent newspaper headline sounded more like a lesson in parenting: Why punish a kid for the crime of being too good? 

The kid, in this case, was 9-year-old Jericho Scott, who played summer baseball on a youth team in New Haven, Connecticut. 

Jericho’s “crime” is his talent. He’s a pitching sensation who throws an awesome 40 mile-an-hour fastball that’s never hit a batter and rarely misses the plate. But the prodigy pitcher himself was struck out—by adults. 

 Parents of opposing team members first objected that their kids were unable to hit any of Jericho’s pitches. Strike one. 

Then youth league officials wanted to move Jericho up to an older team, but his parents refused. Strike two. 

League officials asked Jericho to play any position other than pitcher, but his parents said no again. Strike three. 

Game over. 

The league disbanded Jericho’s entire undefeated team, and the second place team was declared the season’s winner. 

But the post-game show of who’s responsible for the collective benching of so many kids continues to play out across the country, with headlines that sound like…well…more lessons in parenting, like this one from Jericho’s hometown newspaper: Sometimes parent involvement can be way off-base, experts say

Other adults were criticized, too. “The league obviously felt batters would suffer irreversible shame and humiliation if they had to face Jericho again,” wrote an Ohio sports reporter. “Tell me, how does that prepare kids for the real world? Haven’t we all encountered someone more skilled in our field, and haven’t we all survived?”

Ironically, the only person who stepped up to the plate to accept responsibility was perhaps the least culpable of all: Jericho, now 10 years old. “I feel sad,” he said. “I feel like it’s all my fault that nobody could play.” 

Tell us what you think: Can a child be “too good” to play a game, and if so, does he or she have the responsibility to step aside? In the case of Jericho Scott, who’s more responsible for baseball’s abrupt ending—parents…league officials…Jericho? 

For information about creating positive sports experiences for kids, log on to ResponsibleSports.com. Sponsored by Liberty Mutual, the site offers parents and coaches tips, tools, and advice designed to help maximize their kids’ youth sports experience. Parents can also take part in online discussions, asking questions and sharing experiences about how best to help kids apply the life lessons of sports--on and off the field. Because, as The Home Run reminds us, there’s more to the game than winning.