“You don’t need a ticket to see some of the best baseball in the world, you just need to drive one of the players to the game.”
The quote is true, youth baseball is an extraordinary part of the year for tens of millions of families across the US. So much excitement and fun and togetherness. Youth baseball is an excuse for families to rally behind each other: picking each other up in the lows and celebrating in the highs.
It’s all fun and grand right? Kids are active and they have fun and play with their friends and spent tons of quality time with their family right? Not really.
We could go on for days on how things have changed, but to highlight a few:
- Kids are looking at their screens 7+ hours a day according to a study (causing anxiety rates in children to reach an all-time high according to this study)
- Childhood obesity has risen to 18.5% according to this study
- Families spend an average of 37 minutes of quality time together each day according to this article.
So the athletic environment as a whole is unattractive, yet youth baseball attendance is growing. Why? Could parents be onto something? Maybe its the perfect medicine for a kid growing up in today’s tech-obsessed, unhealthy, and family-distant America.
In this article, we dig into this subject a little deeper.
Youth Baseball As A Cure: Less Screen Time More Quality Time
According to Pew Research in their study, less than 20% of American homes contain a stay at home parent. This means that 90% of US Parents are only getting to see their children after work (don’t all sigh in relief at once). That’s not to say that working parents are the problem, it just makes the time parents are getting with their children a bit more important. As quantity goes down, quality should go up right? It’s not.
“When you’re with your kids you really need to be good about putting your phone down or your tablet down and talking to them and being engaged because they pick up on exactly what you’re doing,”
An article by the NY Post takes it a step further as it analyzes true quality time American families spend each day and concludes that its fallen to 37 minutes per day. Yikes!
Where’s the quality time going? How do we fix it?
I want to pitch a solution that worked for my family, is working for hundreds of baseball parents we currently work with at American Baseball Camps, and that is Youth Baseball
Whether you are driving to tournaments and staying at hotels, or taking your kid to practice and hanging out, baseball provides a bunch of great quality moments together (unwedged by tech)!
This week Baseball Parents all across the US are hitting Starbucks drive-throughs at 7 AM and running yellow lights all the way to the ballfield to make a Round Robbin Tournament Game and there is nothing wrong with that.
You are making memories. You are all (parents too) putting your amazingly entertaining phones away and making memories as a family.
So, your quality time is improving, and the fact that you are actually getting up and doing something is limiting screentime as well.
This is backed by the data as Research Gate’s new study concludes at physical activity makes it easier for kids to follow screen limitations.
“What we discovered: Children’s odds of exceeding screen-time limits decreased as the number of physical activity sessions increased.”
So we know youth baseball limits screentime, it provides equal or better entertainment, and increases quality time, what else?
Youth Baseball As A Cure: Mental Development
As we all know from the workforce, it’s tough to do anything without a great team. Forming a team, finding the right teammates, and contributing to the group, are all important factors.
As ballplayers begin to develop in youth baseball they start to develop traits that will make them successful in life. Here are our favorite two:
1. Youth Baseball helps you function well with a team
Every baseball player has the choice to elevate his teammates or not. It really doesn’t have a negative side effect, encouraging your teammates and helping them to become better always has a place in baseball.
Good teammates are the ones that learn to not throw their stuff because it’s not all about them. They choose to focus on the success of the team rather than their own success. They are coachable, friendly, easy to be around, and hardworking.
Any coach worth his weight will be teaching his youth ballplayers these traits, and its pretty cool when kids are encouraged by someone that’s not their parent.
2. Youth Baseball helps with handling adversity.
It’s such a broken record but I guess I’ll say it, baseball is a game of failure. Hitters that hit safely 3 or 4 times out of 10 in youth baseball are considered successful. So what about the other 6-7 times? Disappointment!
Baseball is really good about teaching kids to deal with it and good coaches are good about teaching kids to stay even keel throughout a ballgame. Don’t believe in the even keel thing as a parent or coach? Just watch every single baseball manager and how he treats his ballplayers during the game.
Youth Baseball As A Cure: Physical Development
Youth baseball, like many youth sports, is better played when your body feels better.
Don’t believe us? Just watch any MLB player when he’s giving advice to younger kids, its always one of the first things they say to focus on.
Here are a few quick things kids can learn about physical health if they are playing the game the right way.
- Getting good sleep before a game helps you play better.
- Eating healthy meals & drinking lots of water makes you feel better when you play.
At the family level, baseball can also be used as a way to teach healthy food & hydration habits. Being aware of your body and what kinds of foods make you feel better and play better in a baseball game is a great introductory way to understand nutrition as you tackle (a hopefully health conscious) life as an adult.
Hey, it sure beats “if you eat all your food I’ll let you stay up late, or watch more YouTube!
Youth Baseball As A Cure: Longer Attention Span Reduced Anxiety
We touched on it earlier but here are the hard numbers regarding anxiety levels among children 6-17:
2003 – 5.4%
*iPhone is Invented*
2007 – 8%
*Tablet is Invented*
(Source: Center for Disease Control & Prevention)
So how does baseball solve this problem anyway? It doesn’t fully, but it moves kids in the right direction.
If you’ve ever heard the negative connotation “baseball is boring” you may understand where we are going with this.
To be successful in the game of baseball, you have to be “in the moment” (as leading mental conditioning coach Brian Cain states). You have to be present, focused, and attentive to what you are doing every time you play.
Leading attention span experts like George Orwos have stated that when you are forced to practice focusing for long periods of time you will get better at focusing for long periods of time.
In short, being able to stand in the field for 15-minute innings is equivalent from an attention span standpoint to reading for 15 minutes. Pretty cool right!?
When we do something like read a book for 15 minutes or stand in the outfield for 15 minutes, or brain is in something called a “latent state.” If you don’t know about the importance of the latent state for our brains I’d recommend Netflix’s documentary entitled Tech Addict by Buzzfeed.
To sum up the latent state, it’s like giving your brain some time to breathe. Its good for our brain and it helps us to deal with things when our brain gets time to charge. If you want to test it, tell your kid something frustrating after 2 hours of watching YouTube Videos vs. right after an hour and a half baseball practice. I bet he deals with it better after a mostly “rested brain” and more physical activity releasing positive endorphins into his/her bloodstream.
In conclusion, is baseball a cure to many of the things attacking today’s youth? We believe so.
Blog written by Nick Rotola. Nick holds a Masters in Business Administration and is a Minor League Ballplayer with the Cleburne Railroaders. Nick owns and operates American Baseball Camps, a baseball camps company with baseball camps around the US.