SOUNDOFF: Little League has problems

What has happened to North Whidbey Little League baseball? I thought that when my sons joined Little League they would be learning how to play baseball along with good sportsmanship. In order to learn baseball you have to be able to play it. (Not sit in the dugout while the “favorites” were up to bat anywhere from 4 to 8 times and others were only able to bat 1 or 2 times during a game or not at all.) We only won three games with this type of batting order.

I thought good sportsmanship meant that players were able to play fair with the ability to win or lose graciously. On another team, my son and his friends witnessed coaches bad mouthing the opposing team (by calling the opposing team members “fat and lazy.”). They were speaking about boys who were 8 to 10 years of age. Cursing was used quite a bit around these young boys too. Perhaps the coaches didn’t realize that these boys are still at an impressionable age and looked up to them as role models.

I realize that coaches were scarce this year because of the war in Iraq but the Director of Little League should have had some form of standards for anyone wanting to coach children. I did try and get a message to the Director of Little League (as did some other parents) and we did not get the courtesy of a return phone call. My husband and I both spoke with one of the coaches about his language and the general treatment of the team. He apologized to us and to our son and told us that he didn’t have any children of his own and wasn’t used to being around kids. Unfortunately, two days later he had to leave his coaching position.

Some of the coaches we were left with did not seem interested in coaching a team. They only called for a few practices for the whole season. The kids were still hearing inappropriate language and disparaging remarks when they didn’t win a game. Sometimes the coaches would have team members do unlimited pushups or run the field several times because they had lost a game when they did have a practice. Needless to say, morale was not very high. I spoke with several parents about the incidents listed above and I know a lot of them were afraid to speak out for fear their children would not be treated well.

I feel that when an adult takes a position of paid or volunteer work with children that they have a responsibility to set a good example. I know that there were some good coaches out there last season, because I actually heard children on an opposing team being praised for trying to do their best even though they may have struck out or made an error on the field. The overall feeling I get from my sons is that they aren’t looking forward to playing baseball again next year unless North Whidbey Little League addresses some of these problems.

Madonna Partridge O’Dell is an Oak Harbor resident.

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