Each summer, tens of thousands of Little Leaguers® are selected to International Tournament teams, with the dreams of experiencing a run to one of the seven Little League® World Series or even just capturing that District Championship banner. Parents and guardians are also along for the ride, but having a first-time all-star in your home can lead to some rookie mistakes.
Whether you’re new to tournament season, or who have traveled this road before, here are some Little League parent pitfalls that can potentially dampen this special summer experience.
The Time Commitment
Too often, families plan a vacation a year or more in advance, so when the chance comes to play on a tournament team, a tough decision needs to be made. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do both during June or early July because the pressure can make both experiences less enjoyable. If you have a family vacation already planned, you need to be up-front with those plans and how it might impact your child’s availability to participate and be a part of the team.
Also, when considering placing your Little Leaguer® into the league’s tournament selection pool, remember to ask what the practice schedule is going to be. It’s likely that it will be much more demanding than your regular season experience. Understand that each team is typically guaranteed a minimum of two games in a double-elimination tournament format or more games, if a tournament follows a round-robin format. A team’s tournament run could be done in a week, or it may take many days, or even weeks depending on success. When deciding to make your child available for selection, remember that their commitment of time is also your commitment of time for the duration of the team’s time in the tournament.
The Selection Process
There are established player selection methods for local leagues to use to choose tournament teams as outlined in the current edition of Little League Rules, Regulations, and Operating Policies. If your Little Leaguer® is eligible for tournament play and decides to enter the league’s tournament selection pool, it would serve you well to know what process is being used by the league to assemble the team(s).
Avoid guessing what criteria is being used to assess the players, and simply ask the league’s Player Agent, division Vice President or Coordinator, or the League President. These volunteers will be involved in assembling the team and should have no issue with sharing the player selection process, including what criteria is considered, the ages of the players, and the dates of the district tournament.
The Rumor Mill
Don’t rely on hearsay as confirmation of a tournament team roster spot or any information during tournament time. Whether it’s at your concession stand or on social media, wait until you have official word from the tournament team manager.
When your local league formally announces the tournament team rosters after June 1, your player will receive a call from the team’s manager or is directed to review the roster posted at the league’s field facility, social media page(s), or website. For a player to be a member of a team, his/her name must be listed on the team’s tournament affidavit, which is considered the official roster that is reviewed by the District Administrator. There may be other instances during tournament time when the rumor mill starts back up, whether that’s about scheduling, starting line-ups, etc. It’s best to communicate directly with your manager when it comes to tournament information.
The Team Role
The Little Leaguers selected to a tournament team are often referred to as “All-Stars” because they are considered to be the better players in the league. Put another way, each player on the roster is expected to be one of the better players on their regular-season teams, or may have a certain skill that the team manager believes can help the team compete and succeed in tournament play.
A player can be chosen to the team for an assortment of reasons. Those reasons may not be only physical and how the player is used by the tournament team manager may be different from the way he or she was used during the regular season. Not every player can bat clean up, and only one shortstop can play at a time. Each roster spot is important on a tournament team, and the manager chose your Little Leaguer for a reason, and the league’s Board of Directors approved the team’s manager and coaches, so it is best for you and your player to trust that the motivation and intention of the coaching staff. Before your games start, if you have questions about the role of your child on the team, calmly approach the coach and plan to speak with him/her away from practices and games. Having those expectations before games start can make the experience a lot better for everyone.
The In-Game Access
The tournament season is much different from the regular season for parents who tend to want to “check in” with their children during a game. Regardless of the field facility where the games are played, certain areas are designated “off limits” to parents during tournament games. The dugout is just such an area. “Leaning into the dugout for a pep talk,” or getting “just a couple of seconds” with your child are not permitted.
Like the regular season, only three coaches are permitted in the dugout during the game. This rule remains in play at tournament time and is strictly enforced by the umpire and tournament assistants overseeing operation of the game. Even when an injury occurs the manager and coaches are responsible for tending to the player, unless additional, immediate medical attention is needed. All the coaches to coach and the players to play. Your role during the game is to enjoy the action and be supportive from outside of the fence, and it’s an important role.