For many of our Bombers Baseball teams the Spring / Summer season is coming to a close. A few teams may have a tournament or two left on their schedule, but the majority of our group is either planning for Fall Ball, starting to look towards next year and some are likley just eager for a break from baseball.
So what happens next? It’s around this time of year I start getting questions from existing player families about our plans for next season. How will the 2017 teams be formed? If we don’t play fall ball will we lose our spot? How many players will play in the Fall and will the teams stay the same for the Fall session? Are we going to have tryouts to determine next year’s teams? I have a friend who wants to join next year, how should they go about getting on my son’s team? I heard you were going to offer a “premier” level team for next year, how does my son get considered for this team? These are just a few of the many questions we get this time of year.
In an effort to help streamline the communication I thought I’d try and address some of the more frequently asked questions here. If I happened to miss something, feel free to email me and I’ll add it to this post.
Let’s start with questions pertaining to Fall Ball. If your son elects to not play Fall baseball, they aren’t in jeopardy of losing a spot in the program. While we likely will be adding a few new players during the Fall season, we do so with the understanding that our Spring / Summer players will be accommodated come time to assemble Spring / Summer 2017 rosters. If you are a new player this Fall and plan to stick with a Bombers team next Spring / Summer, we’ll have room for you too.
Will we be holding tryouts? Up to this point we’ve never conducted a formal “tryout” / “Player Evaluation” to make a Bombers baseball team. Our focus is on developing talent, not just selecting the best 7u, 8u, 9u, 10u, or 11u player on the market. That being said, each year around this time I get emails from parents inquiring if there would be room for there son in our program. We will use the month of July and even early August to invite these potential new players to join us for a practice / skills training. Should both sides agree the Bombers program is a good fit, we then welcome the new player onto a Bombers team. This introductory period is more about us getting comfortable with the people we’re inviting to join the program more so than the current baseball skill of the child. We’re fortunate with our many teams to usually have an appropriately matched baseball experience for the player. More important at this stage is making sure the family is a good fit with our Bombers culture.
How do you envision forming teams for next year? Each year we reshuffle the deck with regards to how the teams are assembled. Because we often have players playing up a year at our various age levels, we start with assessing this group to identify if it’s in the best interest of the player to continue playing up. Let me explain this in a bit more depth.
Approximately 40% of our existing 8u rosters were comprised of players eligible for 7u. Because the jump from 8u Machine Pitch to 9u Kid Pitch is so dramatic, we highly encourage this group of players to stay back and play with their appropriate age level. We use this moment in time to align what I call the “want to” of the player. Each child is unique in how much they’ve embraced and truly love playing baseball. We’ve found by aligning the “want to” of the players, we present the boys an optimal playing experience moving forward.
The “want to” is evaluated in a variety of ways. Does the child show up to practice and demonstrate a willingness to learn and aim to improve their baseball skills? How coachable are they? How do they respond to increased levels of competition? This is by no means an all inclusive list, but it gives you the idea. Notice, this is an evaluation of the player, not the parents of the player. So while Mom or Dad may want their son on a particular team or aligned with a particular competitive level, it’s the child who will ultimately tell us through their actions at what level they want to play for the upcoming season.
We won’t ultimately assemble rosters for next year until early March, however we’ll have a pretty good feel for each age group as we finish this Spring / Summer season. Based on what we know right now, it’s safe to say we’ll have an 11u, 9u and 8u team that plays a competitive schedule. These three teams will fare well against many of the top teams at their respective age level. (You can get an idea of the number of games / schedule these teams will have by looking at last year’s fees outline and referencing the 10u Comp team). We’re not fans of using the term “elite” or “premier”, but our most skilled and competitive Bombers teams will compete against the top club teams in the area and usually win their fair share of games against these teams. The biggest difference when it comes to these teams is the commitment of the player and family to be available for games, practices and tournaments.
Some of you may be hearing about or even looking at the advertisements from area baseball clubs about upcoming tryouts. A few of you may even have your child attend one of these tryouts. Clearly the decision as to where your child plays his youth baseball is completely up to you. I’ll offer my perspective for what it’s worth and won’t have any issues at all if you opt to pursue one of these other experiences.
St. Louis is inundated with “Select” baseball clubs / organizations, many of which will be promoting the number of college scholarships their players have received or the number of alumni drafted into professional baseball. Just do your homework and understand the environment in which you are inserting your child. Be cautious of environments where winning and losing ball games is more important than the long term development of the athlete. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my 10u kids in a tournament and our opponent has let their pitcher throw 90+ pitches in a game in an effort to preserve a victory for their respective team. Unfortunately there are many coaches who either lack the knowledge of how to develop a young athlete or are too caught up in associating a win or loss to their personal identity and self worth. The result are decisions made that are harmful, both physically and mentally, to a youth athlete.
Be mindful of the fact that many, if not most, of these clubs were formed with a “for profit” motive. It’s important they gain critical mass in the form of multiple teams at every age level to cover the overhead of their facilities. Yet the focus and resources of the organization are usually deployed to facilitate the development of their perceived top level talent. Make sure you interview the specific coach your son will have and get comfortable with the families you’ll be sharing a bleacher with. If during the introduction to the program you hear about the tournaments they won, or league championships they’ve claimed you are walking into a results focused culture. Very few 7u to 11u players will realize their full potential in such an environment.
It wasn’t by design, but the Bombers Baseball family has developed into an alternative to the “for profit” club programs. For the boys who need or want additional instruction, we’ve referred several of our players to top instructors in the area. These families have found the affordable structure of our Bombers program to be helpful in freeing up resources to fund this additional private instruction.
All this being said, there are really good coaches and people associated with some of these “for profit” clubs. Some of which, I’d have no problem letting my boys be associated with. Just be diligent in your research and thorough in the questions you ask as you evaluate any opportunities. And please feel free to communicate with me and ask if I know anything about a particular coach or team. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with quite a few of these programs and coaches and if I can help in the diligence process, I’m happy to assist.
Q: How does my son get considered for one of these teams that will play a pretty competitive schedule?
A: Over the next few weeks we’ll be conferring with our coaches to identify possible rosters for 2017, realizing the mix of kids could change before we make any final decisions. We’ve had the opportunity to observe the boys a lot this year and have enough information at this time to make a recommendation for 2017.
Q: If you reshuffle rosters for next year, will my son be able to play with this friend from school?
A: We’ll make roster recommendations with the priority being to identify the appropriate competitive experience for each child. When putting together potential rosters we’ll then discuss making adjustments based on existing relationships, etc. Ultimately if a player is recommended to play on Team “A”, but his buddy is recommended for Team “B”, and they want to play together, the player recommended for Team “A” will join the player on Team “B”. At the end of the day it’s all about creating an environment for the boys to have a good time. So if your son wants to play with this buddies even though he’s got a better handle on the skills of the game, that’s completely fine. He’ll still receive personalized instruction at practice and his game will continue to advance in direct proportion to his commitment level.
Q: How often do the more competitive teams practice / train?
A: These more competitive teams don’t really have a different training program. Each of our teams practice on Sunday’s, when available, and has the opportunity to participate in our Winter Warm Up (January – March). Our more competitive teams may sometimes practice for 90 minutes or two hours on a Sunday in lieu of an hour session if attention spans permit. That being said, we do use our pregame time with these more competitive teams a bit differently in that we’ll host mini practices 45 minutes to an hour before each game.
Additionally, we’ll use time in between games at tournaments to work individually with players or host small group training sessions.
Q: Do the competitive teams ever travel for out of town tournaments?
A: We haven’t up to this point taken a team out of the St. Louis area for a tournament, but that’s something we’ll definitely consider if the participating families are interested. A trip that is pretty special is taking a trip to Cooperstown and playing in a tournament and touring the Baseball Hall of Fame. This is available to 12u eligible players, but does require some advance planning, preparation and possibly fundraising.