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All-Star Team Selection: A Better, Fairer Way?

Every Picture Tells A Story

To say that politics and favoritism are often involved in the selection of all-star teams in youth sports would be an understatement, but making the selection process fairer is easier said than done. 

Ever see a picture in your local paper of a summer "all-star" baseball team of 10 and 11 year olds and find it odd that nearly every kid in the picture is either the son or daughter of one of the coaches or of one of the coaches of a team during the regular season or the best friend of the coaches kid?

Ever wonder how it was that all the coaches' sons or daughters are so much more "talented" than the other kids that they get to continue playing all summer, sharpening their skills, getting the advantage of playing three, four, even five times a week under the lights or in the hot summer sun, while other kids, eager to play, stand on the outside looking in, already stigmatized by having been deemed "not good enough" to play.

Baseball catcher getting sign

Fast forward to the time when those same kids are juniors and seniors in high school and come across stories in the local paper about the high school varsity baseball team and, lo and behold, they are filled with the names of the same players who were so-called "all stars" six or seven years earlier. Surprised that they are the same kids, when experts say that abilities change significantly in children from year to year, sometimes within the same season.

Politics, Not Crystal Balls

Because the current relative athletic ability of a young child, particularly a child who has not reached the onset of puberty, is not an accurate predictor of his or her athletic talent, how is it that those who select the summer all-star teams are able to predict with such a degree of accuracy the players at age ten or eleven who will be the most athletically talented six or seven years later? They can't!

What's wrong is a structure that, instead of serving the interests of our children, feeds adult egos; a flawed, slanted and, yes, rigged all-star selection process that virtually guarantees that the players picked aren't the "best" (and remember, there is no such thing as "best" at this age; for the vast majority of kids the differences in athletic ability are small; far too small to start labeling and eliminating), but are simply the ones who are fortunate enough to be the sons or daughters of the coaches, league administrators, or Board members. Occasionally, the inequities in this system are there for all to see: I remember there was one boy my kids' age who made the summer all-star team year after year, not because he was a good player, but because his father was a coach. When, several years later, he tried out for the middle school baseball team, and he couldn't even make the roster! The person that it hurt the most was Tommy, and boy did he take the heat from all of the other kids who had been wise to this game for years.