The idea of “dumbed down” sports is a scary concept for some. It can be hard for many adults, especially coaches, to accept. The mere idea of doing so can bring their coaching into question and evoke feelings of hesitation, resistance and fear. Many are often quick to admit, “My dad never ‘dumbed down’ sports for me, and I turned out fine.” However, watch a seasoned coach try to teach a young child without “dumbing down” sports, and they fail miserably. Still, purists claim “dumbed down” sports coaching is anything but natural.
The theoretical problem for many coaches is they consider “dumbed down” sports very misleading for children. Rules like not keeping score, every child plays, trophies for all, and the embracing of unorthodox coaching techniques adds fuel to the argument against “dumbed down” sports. Some believe it is these types of rules and coaching that dilute sports for children, create weaker players and lead to their developmental deficiency. In other words, children are not taught what sports are all about like how to compete and, essentially, how to win.
As strong as the arguments are against “dumbing down” sports, there are arguments equally as strong agreeing with it. Proponents' focus typically begins with what is best for the kids. The thinking is sports need to be designed for the kids, not the other way around. The fear is what happens without policing those who forget about the kids? Today's youth sports culture already has too many sports parents and coaches putting competition and winning first. Kids are getting lost in the process as parents are living vicariously through them. Embracing “dumbed down” sports represents one way to slow or change our youth sports culture. What this platform and its proponents are doing is making common sense suggestions that are designed to keep coaches and parents in check.
As you consider where you stand on the issue, it is important to understand the foundational difference between the two arguments. The difference is what children need to be taught about sports versus how children need to be taught about sports. I, as a coach, am proud to say I embrace the how.
As a tot-sports instructor for the last five years, my work has very much taught me the significance of the “dumbed down” sports approach. My belief, however, was born more out of a matter of necessity in the beginning and is something today I’ve come to embrace. Nonetheless, it does not exist without scrutiny by sports purists. At this point, I say to my opposition, be careful, my reasons for embracing “dumbed down” sports might surprise you and even leave you finding value in it too.
At Jelly Bean Sports, Inc., we work with beginner athletes (ages 2-6). Many parents and coaches cringe at the thought of working with this age group. However imagine this, what if beginner athletes' reputation for being difficult to teach did not precede them? What if the struggle to unlock their focus was minimized? What if the idea of "dumbed down" sports was one that rather than hurting kids, helped make kids become more "coachable?” As a coach, I am sure many of you would agree this sounds like a more appealing and productive athlete. What the “dumbed down” sports approach does for us is helps us overcome typical child behavior issues. It provides us the security of knowing we have a kid-strategy in place that consistently unlocks children’s focus. Of course, I am no dummy. I know this is not enough for many of you to leave your current post and follow my line of coaching.
What I am asking you, as a parent or coach, to do is stop, and take a deeper look at what this idea of sports being "dumbed down" means to some of us coaches. If you do, you should find value in it and what it means to you, too.
The "dumbed down" sports approach allows me, as a coach, to simplify sports. I can make learning fun for young children while cultivating confidence, motor skills, listening skills, communication and reasoning skills. How do these things benefit you? As a parent, hopefully you can see the value in your child responding positively to direction from someone other than yourself. As Jelly Bean Coaches, our expertise is working with beginner athletes. We know their needs and they more embrace "dumbed down" sports than traditional sports teachings. How we teach your child should give you confidence that your investment into classes like ours money well-spent. We know your child's happiness takes precedence and I, as the developer of our Sports Made Simple, Learning Made Fun instructional approach, am confident in telling you that as long as learning is made fun, children are happy.
As for you Mr. Baseball Coach, what do you get out of it? Well, If I, and others, do our jobs teaching "dumbed down" sports right, you should be receiving a kid who has a foundational knowledge of the game. Yes, he is only six and he won't be winning the Trivial Pursuit Sports Edition but he does know and can recognize the components of the game and he even knows what your role as a coach is a to a certain extent what you expect of him. Of course, children all vary in their capacities but collectively you get a more "coachable" group if the majority of them have developed in a good tot-coaching program.
In order to apprecate a good tot-sports instructional program you should know what they do. At Jelly Bean Sports, since we focus on the how the components you are looking for may be phrased slightly different for beginner baseball player. For example, as he learned how to throw, he broke his toothpick and made a cracking sound with his mouth. This terminology and action helped him to remember a valuable step in throwing, bending at the elbow. As he learned to hit, he created caterpillars with the knuckles on his hands holding the bat. Mom and Dad even learned that instead of yelling at him to keep his hands together on the bat, they should say, “Fix your broken caterpillar.” He learned proper fielding form by practicing creating an alligator with his two hands that he knows have to be low-to-the-snow. And, before he will throw it back to you, he knows he should bring it to his belly button. Why? Because the baseball the alligator eats goes down his throat and into his belly. Parents are even taught the significance of this action. The belly button, as you as a baseball coach already know, is the transitional point between fielding and throwing. These are our outside-the-box coaching approaches that breakdown baseball into easy-to-learn teachable components that are fun for kids.
My hope is you are beginning to realize, “dumbed down” sports is a means to an ends for some of us. As coaches and sports parents, we must respect how sports is taught at every level. It is important to remember, one person's "dumbed down" is another's way of making kids more "coachable.” See you in class!