I learned a lot of good business and life lessons from watching my 6yo son play machine pitch baseball this year. We live down south, so he’s in a Dixie Youth affiliated program run by the Surfside Beach Youth Sports Association (SBYSA). Overall, the season was a huge fiasco, but that’s no reason to not learn anything from it. One would hope the SBYSA would learn something as well, but, judging by their refusal to make any changes, I’m not so sure.
This season brought back bad memories of the baseball field scenes from Maximum Overdrive. The steamroller would be the SBYSA.
The president of the association was determined that he’d bring the kids up to speed for some type of program he envisioned for the future, but he pushed for change at lightning speed with no transition. Lesson- not all change has to happen immediately. In business you might lose money or personnel. In Little League, it’s not worth kids getting hurt over.
They invested in or borrowed expensive pitching machines. They didn’t work, but, instead of moving to coach pitch so the kids could actually enjoy the game, they kept messing with the machines. Lesson- sometimes an investment isn’t worth the money you put in. Know when to call it quits and move in a different direction.
Here’s a typical game with the lovely pitching machines…
- Every third pitch was followed by a scream from the official of “No pitch!”
- A kid would be hit by a wild pitch every couple of innings. Yes, they were beaning little kids with this precision machine.
- Each inning consisted of 95% machine adjustment and readjustments and 5% letting the little tykes actually play ball.
- It got to the point where the kids were afraid to step into the batter’s box. One of the parents actually referred to the batter’s box as ‘the death zone’.
- Even with all the bad pitches, they would give each kid 5 pitches and then send them back into the dugout. It was assembly line baseball.
- Instead of learning skills like proper batting, the kids would swing at anything, because they had no way of knowing if they’d get a good pitch at all.
Nearly every game myself and several other parents asked the coaches and yelled from the stands, “Do coach pitch and let the kids play.” When they wouldn’t do that, we tried to get them to at least let the batter run or throw a ball into the field with each strikeout, just so the kids could do something besides play in the dirt. Lesson- be willing to listen to your customers when they let you know something isn’t working.
Because of the machine, there was an electrical cord strung across the field, tripping the kids as they run the bases. Lesson- repair obvious problems immediately, especially if they pose a hazard to you, your employees, or your customers.
Even with the problems, they still forced kids in ill-fitting catcher’s equipment to stand behind the plate. Each game averaged at least one catcher getting hurt and taken off the field. It almost seemed like they enjoyed seeing just how much pain the kids could take. Lesson- be very careful if one of your numbers that you watch is the attrition of your team. It’s necessary in the military, but not business or Little League.
Perhaps scariest of all, they allowed adults onto the field to help the kids without necessary background checks. Lesson- many of your businesses require classes, certifications, and security checks. Don’t bypass those to save time or money. It’ll catch up eventually.
What the league really worked out to was an effort by the SBYSA president to appease himself at the expense of the kids’ safety and enjoyment and the parents’ willingness to take part in the same fiasco the next year. Don’t do this in your business or you may find yourself working solo with no customers.
And please don’t throw baseballs at people in the office.
This message was written by Dr. David Powers. You can always find me at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!