Psychology of Sport

From the games of youth to the big leagues

Should Little League Baseball Be Nationally Televised?

Aren’t we exploiting the trials and tribulations of children

I have a hard time watching 11 and 12 year-old boys playing baseball on national television. In fact, I just change the channel. Don't get me wrong. I love the kids, but are they ready for that kind of exposure? Aren't we exploiting the trials and tribulations of children for adult entertainment?

Little League Baseball is a wonderful venue for kids. Playing on a team, having uniforms, and going out for ice cream after the game are all part of this American pastime. I played Little League Baseball. I hope my kids will play as well. But I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the publicity around the Little League World Series.

Sure, some kids say it's a blast, but for others, they are simply not ready for prime time. Children at the ages of and 11 and 12 are just beginning to really understand what it means to win and lose as their abstract thinking is just starting to develop. They are still in the process of developing a broad range of physical, cognitive and emotional skills. Their bodies are still growing at varying rates. They are just beginning to understand what it really means to be a part of the team, to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses with greater accuracy, and begin to deal with their success and failures.

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I don't think the average 12 year-old is well-equipped to deal with success and failure while playing for a nationally televised audience. If a young shortstop makes an error to lose the game, is he really capable of shrugging it off and putting it in perspective? And for the player who hits in the winning run, is he able to keep his success in perspective? Might this be the height of his athletic achievements, only to see that he doesn't make the high school or collegiate team and feels like a disappointment?

I'd prefer to see the Little League World Series to continue to occur but off the television and out of the papers. These boys are only kids. Let them experience the highs and lows, the camaraderie, the joy of the game on a smaller scale that they can manage. Let their families and friends attend the games and have a nice, small ceremony afterward that honors both teams. Let's find other ways to entertain ourselves as adults.

 

Dr. Richard D. Ginsburg is co-Director of the Sport Psychology Program and PACES Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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