J.T. asks from Chino Hills, CA on April 26, 2010
Pony Baseball Vs. Little League Baseball
What is the difference between Little League and Pony League? Are the philosophies the same? How is the league run differently?
I have a 6 year old son currently in the Pony League. Last year was his first year playing baseball and he didn't do too well. Some team mates made fun of him for not being able to hit the ball, and the coaches last year did not help out with the situation. I signed him up for private lessons after the season to show him that baseball is actually fun (and to make up for his bad first season of ever playing ball). This year, our friends talked us into signing back up for Pony and assured us it won't be like last year. We were placed on the same team as last year. The kid who made fun of my son moved up into the older division.
This year is much better, but from a parent stand point, there seems to be way too much politics (and social pressure) involved for 6 year-olds. I just want my son to have fun without the pressure to perform. Our team is an o.k. team, but unlike AYSO, the kids are admonished after every game (unless they 'win'). I thought scores weren't being kept at this age? The coaches are all about winning and they discuss what needs to be done 'better', etc. I have never heard a "great play out there!" or "it's o.k., you played your hardest and had fun" from the coaches. My husband and I coach AYSO so we totally appreciate all the hard work that goes into coaching kids under 10.
I only hear positive reinforcement coming from the parents. Could it be that we just got stuck on 2 poorly managed teams back to back? Any information would be helpful so that we can make a decision for next year.
C.B. answers from Los Angeles on April 26, 2010
My son is now eleven and playing in the Bronco division. He has played pony since he was a little guy.
My understanding of the difference between pony and little league is that pony is that pony is a bit more competitive and advanced in their time line for learning the game. For instance, the bases are farther apart sooner and they can lead off at an earlier age than in Little League.
We have played with a variety of coaches; those to whom winning was the end/all be all and those who have their head in the clouds and no real knowledge of the game. At six however your coach should be focusing on the positive and maybe addressing the "not so great" plays as things to work on in a positive way. If he is scolding them about their play he should NOT be coaching kids this young.
For instance, my son's team has to run laps for every strike out that is called (meaning they don't swing at the last strike). I first noticed them running after a loss against a very hard, more experienced team and I was quite angry. I asked my son later why they were running. He explained about the strike outs, and I was very happy I had not approached our coach. At this age the boys know what they are doing right and wrong. Running laps for called strike three is fine with me, and not one of them are traumatized by it. Last game there were only two called strike outs. They are learning if they are going to go down, go down swinging. Eleven is a far cry from six however.
Politics run hand in hand I think in all sports. I do not know if you can get away from that. For instance, we just picked all stars and the only one from our team was our coaches son, yet another team had five or six and their coach is on the board. Now, as a parent, I am the first to admit my child is not the best player on his team let alone in the league. But I can fairly say he is better or the same skill level as more than a few of the all stars picked. We have explained "politics" to him from this example to who plays where in regards to coaching relationships. He understands and I think will have eyes open to situations in life because of it.
You are always going to have coaches and parents who focus solely on winning and being the best. Because your son is still young, you might try Little League next season or if they have a winter ball and see what you think. You need to do what feels right for you and your child. Try it and see, why not?
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G.G. answers from Los Angeles on April 27, 2010
Hello. I live in Whittier and had my son in Pony when he was 5 years old. The league is extremely competitive and they play to teach the kids the 'real' way to play baseball. The rules are the same as MLB. My son didn't do so well because he got bored. The next season they told me he needed to be moved up. His birthday was the actual cut off date. I voiced my concerns on how I didn't believe he was able to keep up if he could please stay down one more year. They told me 'its the rules and wouldn't be fair to the younger kids to have an older kid play against them.' Mind you, he would be 12 hours too old to play down. I talked to some friends who had their sons in Little League (Whittier) & they said it doesn't matter what age the child is, if they can't keep up, they stay down no matter what. Turns out, Little League is more about fun and will not pressure the child to move up if he's not ready. I loved that Pony was competitive and taught 'Official Baseball Rules' but my son wasn't mature/old enough to care he just wanted to have fun.
Suggestion - Little League. If later he's doing really good and needs to be challenged & wants to stick with it, then switch over to Pony.
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C.A. answers from Los Angeles on April 27, 2010
I have 2 sons, one is more athletic than the other. so, we have tried both. I MUCH prefer Little league. It is more low key, and casual. the parents are no where near as competitive either. That being said, i think you have had lousy coaches. I just want my kids to have fun, I do not think they are going to be star athletes. pony gets serious quickly. In 2nd grade kids are pitching. I think that is ridiculous. It is a game, and should be treated like one. I never had coaches like yours in pony, so, i think that could happen in either league.
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