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Little League vs AAU

Discussion in 'Coaches Corner' started by moondog80, May 8, 2017.

  1. moondog80

    moondog80 heart is two sizes two small SoSH Member

    Curious to know if anyone thinks AAU is having a negative impact on Little League in their town. I feel it is out of control -- my son's league has games scheduled during the week and practices on the weekend, but practices are being cancelled because of AAU commitments for the coaches and the majority of players. My son's team has had practice cancelled two weeks in a row, and I know of at least two other teams where the same thing has happened. Meanwhile, enrollment decreases every year as the non-AAU kids see what is going on and drop out, but the AAU kids stay -- I think 9 or 10 kids out of 12 on my son's team play AAU. My son (who does not play AAU) is treated fine, so that's not the issue -- he's not a star but a decent enough player where he can at least keep his head above water and pitch a bit when they need some innings, and I've been taking him to the (empty) field to practice during his allotted practice slot to work on his skills. But a kid who doesn't play AAU and doesn't have much in the way of natural ability? Forget it. My second son fits that description, and loves baseball, but I can't see signing up for majors in a few years when he's old enough.

    It won't happen, but I'd love to see our league force AAU parents/caoches to make a choice, one or the other. I think they would go with Little League, because they all think they're going to Williamsport, or at least Bristol for the NE regionals.
    #1 moondog80, May 8, 2017
    Last edited: May 8, 2017
  2. IpswichSox

    IpswichSox Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    Travel baseball definitely trumps Little League. Pitching is mostly where the conflicts happen. In my experience with my son, travel coaches talk with Little League coaches (and parents) to make sure key pitchers weren't burned in Little League games during the week, making them ineligible to pitch for the travel team on the weekend. While this does distort the competitiveness of Little League games, I guess one upside is that it does create opportunities for some Little League players that might not otherwise exist. The bigger question is whether, in the future, kids choose to play in one but not both, leaving Little League populated only with kids who couldn't make a travel team.
  3. bosoxsue

    bosoxsue Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I can only respond as a bystander; my son is in majors, and his team is adversely affected by the AAU commitments of a few kids. I don't think it's fair to the team when the parents overextend their kids by signing them up for both, and of course they always pick the AAU when there is a conflict. My son is decent in the field, a capable hitter and slow as molasses, but one of the biggest things he brings to any team is enthusiasm and the "team player" attitude -- I hear that from every coach he has had. But even he gets beleaguered when the really talented kids are missing because of AAU and the Little League team feels it. I'm with you, that there should have to be a choice. But that doesn't seem to be on the table in anything, including premier soccer vs. travel.
  4. moondog80

    moondog80 heart is two sizes two small SoSH Member

    This definitely happens, and I agree that it's an upside. Really the issue is "we will only practice when it suits the AAU schedule, which is never".

    If Little League was only populated by kids who couldn't make a travel team, so be it. But what I see happening is the opposite -- it will only be populated by travel kids, who hang on because Williamsport.
  5. CantKeepmedown

    CantKeepmedown Member SoSH Member

    The AAU is not as much as an issue in my area as is kids playing other sports. A lot of kids in my son's league are playing hockey and basketball year round. And on more than a few occasions have his teammates (and kids on opposing teams) had to miss games because of commitments to AAU basketball and hockey. It's frustrating, but what are you going to do? I'm pretty good friends with one such kids mom and dad. They basically say, "Well we paid $300 for his AAU basktball team and $80 for baseball. He's not missing basketball". And he's a pretty good baseball player (and even better basketball player).
  6. doc

    doc Member SoSH Member

    In my town the group that ran the local Cal Ripkin League also set up a private AAU team for their kids and friends, the "rec" games act as a practice for the AAU kids and all the Cal Ripkin travel teams are the AAU kids.
  7. Doug Beerabelli

    Doug Beerabelli Killer Threads Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    My son plays in a medium sized town (about 30K) that has an AAU and/or AABC travel team that is under the umbrella of the local LL. Kids are allowed to play both, but not all players or teams do both. Some of it is scheduling conflicts - my son's 12U team is playing in two travel leagues over a 3.5 month period, so no time for local LL. I can't think of any kids that opted out of travel to play LL for the chance at Williamsport. The 11u team is playing both AAU and travel (2/3s of team opted to do both), and what will be of interest is how the 11U players affect the All Star team selections. Many of them will be amongst the best players, but the selection process may or may not take the "loyalty" factor into consideration - it's to be played out, and I'm sure it'll cause some controversy one way or another. Our league is starting to integrate the travel kids into LL at the lower levels, and may eventually require that, which is not uncommon in CT. In fact, many programs make local LL the priority, and travel games are of secondary importance. Ours hasn't hit that point yet, but it might go there.

    It's clear the travel programs have affected the quality of play in LL, but I wouldn't say that's necessarily a bad thing. Just different, and perfectly OK as long as all the kids are having a fun experience. There's a conflict of thought amongst the powers that be - on one hand, our town is not putting its best kids on the LL All Star teams if they do travel only, but at the same time, other kids are getting to participate in the All Star/tournament that they might not otherwise experience. I don't think our town would go too far either way. FWIW, I think most, if not all of the US teams making it far in the LL world series (regionals and beyond) are populated by travel team players that play enough LL games to become eligible. The last CT team to qualify - (Westport IIRC) has that situation.

    If kids are going to both, it behooves both organizations to communicate and set expectations and priorities. Our town can do that easier because both teams are under the same management. Generally for now, kids have to play 70% of LL games to qualify for All Stars. Kids who pitch/catch travel can't pitch/catch in LL. Logical process is games priortize over pratices. Due to field availability, the teams do a good job of not having game conflicts, but it still can happen.

    All or nothing requirements can chase away good players, as players (or more accurately, parents of players) who want to become better at baseball will opt for more games, more practices and ostensibly better coaching offerred by travel baseball -- which comes at a price. Delusions of grandeur, perhaps. Our team is made up of volunteer coaches, and we do our best, but we go to an indoor baseball facility and get professionals to coach them during winter workouts. Also encourage pitching lessons and catching lessons if players want to pay the cost to do it. In the end, we are more expensive than local LL ($180 vs. a little over $1K all in, including travel costs (hotels) for a couple tournaments) but we are about 50% of the costs of area professional travel team programs. Our program offers the travel ball experience, playing against good competition, but for a competitive price.

    My son has been playing travel only since 8U, and I've been an assistant coach for his teams all that time. I'm also on the Exec Board of the local LL, and sponsor a team, so I support the local LL and am familiar with all sides of this issue. I'm not sure what's better. For us, there's logic in spinning off the travel program from local LL (as well as support for that from peeps who don't like the travel program), but I think there are concerns doing so would be a net loss, as the travel team coaches make up a large portion of the volunteers taking care of fields, filling board positions, and generally getting things done for benefit of all.

    Lax and soccer eat into our local player pool for baseball, too. Soccer is full year if you play premier, and lax is very popular and growing - football/lax is a common combo encouraged by coaches of both at the youth level. LL is hanging in there, but numbers are down.
  8. LoweTek

    LoweTek Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I'm not LL but Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth. 10U this year. Travel teams such as AAU and the for-profit travel teams are absolutely decimating rec leagues in our area. I find it hard to believe this is not true anywhere the two try to co-exist. Unless they have financial (and ethical) limits, all better players go to travel teams starting as young as 8U. I get it. But it's still really unfortunate. The good of the game just isn't served. Kids get to where they feel if they aren't good enough for travel teams by 12 years old they should move on to some other activity or sport. It's a very difficult time for rec youth baseball.
  9. Byrdbrain

    Byrdbrain Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    I agree completely with LoweTek. My kids are too old for that stuff now and when they were in it AAU was just starting to become an issue for the local league. Travel teams really do limit the opportunity for middle to lower end players and I have to think in the long run it will end up hurting the game.
  10. Doug Beerabelli

    Doug Beerabelli Killer Threads Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    FWIW, the 12u AAU league we are in CT has 4 divisions, tiered for skill level. As a stronger town only travel team, we chose the second highest division. The highest division is all higher end pro travel teams/facilities. Our division is a mix of better town teams and pro travel programs. Some program have multiple teams in an age group, playing in different divisions.

    51 teams total. Mid level players are certainly playing, maybe some lower ones. The issue is as much about kids of mid to lower skills being priced out of travel baseball. Good players will find a program that'll make it work for that player's family (subsidized or free). Baseball isn't only sport where this happens, of course. LL is still a bargain for what you get, especially if your player gets on a team with a good coach who maxes out practice opportunities.
  11. Skiponzo

    Skiponzo Member SoSH Member

    My youngest son plays both travel and LL and we have an agreement with his travel team that games take priority be they travel games over LL practice or LL games over travel practice. We also agree that LL games take precedence over travel games during the LL season. LL is community, playing against your friends and school mates....it's an important part of youth baseball and I'm very happy they can co-exist in our town. I think it all comes down to communication and having people in charge who are really looking out for the kids best interests.

    We left a previous travel team because they didn't get this.
  12. BigJimEd

    BigJimEd Member SoSH Member

    South of Boston here. Son plays both. Good player but not one of the best.
    In our town, there are a decent amount that play both but it is probably less than in other towns around.

    There are numerous travel teams around too. If a kid had the desire to play then he can find a team regardless of ability.

    I don't think travel is hurting our town league much. More kids miss time due to basketball or lacrosse. Year round basketball probably takes away the most kids.

    We don't have any LL games on weekends so games don't conflict with travel. But most travel teams will want you to prioritize their games. Practice not as much. I know at least a couple of the teams around will tell their kids to go to LL practice over theirs.

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