Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” As every professional athlete sits in the most prized role in sports, they all started their careers by learning the basics in community leagues. Local recreational (rec) baseball and softball leagues are a springboard for young athletes to learn fundamentals, be around their peers, and love to play the game. At least, this should be the way.
There is a push to be bigger, stronger, and faster in order to be at the top. While this is true, we must remember that no professional athlete got to the top without taking the first step and making errors as they honed their craft.
Support at the rec league has fallen over the past several years due to family dynamics changing, sports becoming cost-prohibitive for families, and the idea that rec ball is for kids who aren’t good enough to play elite sports. This mentality, especially the latter, must be modified.
Family life has changed greatly over the last 30 years. Keeping to a busy schedule and getting to practices and games is difficult but possible with help. The cost to play continues to increase, and unfortunately a lot of that is due to falling sponsorships and support for the leagues. Boards work tirelessly to get donations to offset many costs, but it never seems to be enough to lower league costs. Our local business owners have been incredibly supportive over the years, giving season after season. Without them, our leagues could not operate the way they do.
Rec ball is for all kids. All abilities. All talent. It is their world to explore something new and be challenged. There is such a push to move to elite level play, and while that is the best path for some, it is not the best or right path for all. Rec ball is designed to prepare players for the next level. In theory, that step is school ball. Sometimes the next level is travel. No matter the following steps, it is important to remember that the peer group from rec will be their school teammates down the road.
Support the local leagues. Volunteer some time to help at the fields. Cheer for the kids and remember it is more than a game. Our kids need places to grow, and the seeds are planted at the local level.