Playing Up

Playing Up - Philosophy (FAQ)

G∙NG∙R Little League rarely lets player move up a level. There are many reasons, but the primary reason is that it helps all of our levels produce quality play and confident players.

Parents often think their player will benefit from playing up, but most benefit more from being successful leaders on their team.  Our experience shows that players develop skills better when they are appropriately matched and have an opportunity for success.  From our experience, nearly all hitters perform poorly when batting at a level above their age.  Pitchers who play up rarely pitch.  

On the softball side, we follow the same philosophy, but allow more room for movement between levels because of the need to ensure we have teams at all levels.

When will they use real baseball rules?

Not in Little League.  We often get asked when the players will play by the real rules of baseball.  In Little League, they never do.  Only at Juniors and Seniors (ages 13-16) do rules that are similar to high school and professional baseball apply.  Little League baseball has multiple levels with rule sets designed to make the game fun and accessible to developing players.  Our goal is to ensure all players - ones who are just trying the sport and those who will play college ball, have a chance to compete and learn on the field.  Sometimes, this means your player might be ready for additional rules before others (or not ready as soon as others).   We do our best to find a medium where players have the room to develop and learn without being overwhelmed.  

Our main goal is to keep the pace-of-play high and the number of reps for each player as high as possible.  This often means modified rules to ensure the game is not frustrating and that it moves along (i.e. 5 run rule per inning).  We feel every player should play every position at these young ages and our rules are designed to give everyone that opportunity.

Quality play at all levels

We want each level to be competitive and have value.  In the early 2000s, pretty much all decent 10 year olds played up and the bad 11 year olds played in minors.  We found that the 10 year olds benefitted little from this (especially pitchers) and that the result as an AAA level that was completely worthless.  The high quality 10 year old pitchers were in majors and there were no players who could play or hit.  Good 9 year old players absolutely hated it and it was a terrible experience for fans and players - games with scores of18-15 with no hits and 27 walks.  We lost lots of players due to the poor quality of the level.  The current AAA format is much more dynamic than it used to be and we feel this is because there are good players playing at the level. 

Additionally, the reps at that level were completely useless for the players as they never had pitches to hit or balls to field.  Players playing up rarely pitched, fielded infield positions, or were successful at the plate. 

Keeping players playing against their peers and with good players raises the quality of play for all players.  The good players show the less experienced players how to play and can become leaders by setting the example for the team. 

Across the board, we feel this policy has raised the level of play at all levels in our league and the quality of player produced by our league.

Meaningful reps

As mentioned above, we want all of our players to get meaningful reps at all levels.  By keeping players who "could play up" at their age level, they bring leadership and knowledge of the game at a level that is still accessible to other players.  They challenge the other players and we find they are still challenged by facing their high-quality peers who play at the same level.

We've found:

- Pitching when in Majors at a lower age is rarely developmentally successful.  We find it often leads to overthrowing or just lack of reps due to 11 and 12 year-olds getting most of the reps.

- Batters get frustrated when overmatched.  Not necessarily bad for them, but the board considers this to be less valuable than learning to be leaders at their age level and maximize their reps in valuable positions.  Plus, hitting doubles, triples, and home runs is fun.  If anything, Little League is about teaching a love of the game and these successes make the game fun and rewarding.  

- Players who are top in their level have a better chance to become leaders and show the younger kids how the level should be played.

Leadership Opportunities

Maturity and leadership are a large part of baseball and softball.  While players often have skills that are good enough to play up, they become the youngest player in a level rather than a senior player with leadership potential.  Playing up is often accompanied by being less mature leading to goofing off or simply not fitting in.  

Playing as one of the top players among their peers, allows players to become leaders, show how the game should be played, and model good behavior as the serious ballplayers at the level.  

Learning to lead by example is a primary goal of Litle League and our current league structure maximizes this opportunity.

Giving back to the league...

Dave Bush, at the time a pitching coach for the Portland Sea Dogs, once said, "we play this whole league so that two or three guys each year can make it to the Bigs.".  This was an eye-opening statement as he was talking about AA minors baseball at the professional level.  His point was that it takes quality play to develop players, quality coaches, and quality reps.  Only a few AA players ever make it to the Majors out of a given professional AA year.  Yet, everyone there is trying to make the best experience for all the players that they can.

We ask our families and players to do the same for our league - sometimes modifying their expectations to help develop our league as a whole.  Helping have quality play at all of our levels creates an environment where every player can learn.  Some are learning the basics at a level.  Some are trying to see if they can bat 1.000 - never happened so far.   Together they create a level that is dynamic and gives every player quality repetitions and chances to succeed.

It takes coaches who organize practices so that similarly skilled players are playing catch together, coaches who rotate players at the right times in the games to get everyone an infield chance, and players who show their peers how the game should be played.

We feel this results in a dynamic structure that maximizes the benefit to all players.  It leads to players who you'd never look at and say "that's a ball player" getting the chance to try the sport and see what fun it can be.  Players who come from baseball families get the chance to develop leadership skills throughout their Little League experience.  

While your player could be getting "more competitive" reps at a higher level, we ask that your player help us develop the entire league, enjoy playing with their peers, and focus on creating even more personal success on the field.  Higher level players won't make their careers playing only Little League.  We feel Little League should prioritize community, peers, and development of all players with the goal of creating life-long baseball and softball fans and leaders of the game.