By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck
Every year, new boards come into youth baseball and softball leagues around the country and begin making decisions about the upcoming season. Those most pressing issues are usually the ones handled first. Therefore, we spend most of our time in the winter board meetings talking about tryouts, scheduling, team selections, managers, uniforms, registration and the like. What often gets pushed to the back burner however, are some of the policies that later take on the utmost importance. And if we wait until after the season begins to address these, there are many skeptics who believe the late decisions give unfair benefit to some over others. It is best to get all of your rules and guidelines out in the open before Opening Day so that there is no controversy later. Here is a list of a few items that we recommend you address and clearly delineate prior to the start of the season.
1. League Championship: What determines your League Champion? Overall record? First-half/Second-half? Playoff? Who makes the playoff? Is there a regular-season champion and a play-off champion? What is the tiebreaker if two teams are tied? What if three or more teams are tied?
2. Post-season playoffs: If you will be participating in a Tournament of Champions or other post season tournaments involving neighboring leagues, how will you determine which teams get to go?
3. All-stars: What are the selection criteria for all-stars? Does the board pick the teams? Managers? Players? Some combination of these?
4. All-star Managers: How will they be selected? Is it strictly the President’s choice? Will weight be given to prior experience? Will team standings be factored in?
5. Rainout schedule: In the event of rain, what is the procedure for make-ups? Is there a clear process to determine how games are made-up so that no one cries foul when they are forced to play back-to-back games or extra games in a week?
6. Player call-ups: What if a player is injured, quits, or is non-attending? How long does the player have to be out before a manager must call-up a replacement from a lower division? What is the process to ensure timely reporting of injury or a player who has missed consecutive games to ensure a manager is not using a missing player to his advantage?
7. Late registrants: What happens when a player wants to register after the draft has taken place? Is there a system in place to ensure no one believes a team has received an unfair advantage from the Player Agent or the board by getting a “ringer” who wasn’t available to everyone else during the draft?
8. Players choosing managers: What is your policy for parents of players who say, prior to the draft, that they want to play only for one manager, or NOT for one manager? What system is in place to make certain no one can manipulate the draft in their favor?
9. Umpire no-show: If the umpire doesn’t show up what happens? Play the game with a parent umping behind the mound? Does it count in the standings? Play a practice game and reschedule? Pull an umpire from a lower division game?
Your league may not experience all of these issues, but there’s a good chance you’ll encounter some. And if you clearly define your policy on these situations before they occur, no one can accuse you of showing favoritism.
Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.