Individuals acquire and develop motor skill proficiency at various stages or critical periods in their growth and development. A critical period is the time when an individual is optimally ready to learn a particular skill, such as throwing, catching, or hitting, and the learning occurs with the greatest efficiency. It is a widely held belief by youth-sport researchers that if a child does not develop proficiency at a motor skill within the critical period then the learning of that skill may be extremely delayed or not occur at all.
The concept of critical periods has its greatest impact on youth baseball when players are not taught, or given a chance, to use fundamental motor skills such as throwing, catching, hitting, and running. It is ironic that the player who is usually stuck out in rightfield because he lacks the fundamental motor skills associated with baseball is never given a chance to develop those skills.
The kid in rightfield should be put at a position like shortstop, second base, or third base where he is given more opportunities to throw and catch. Otherwise a motor skill proficiency barrier may occur and the individual may never adequately acquire the skills needed to participate further in the sport competitively and non-competitively.
Also, the player who tends to be the worst hitter on the team and put last in the batting order should be moved up towards the top of the order where he will get more chances to bat.
The decision to emphasize the development of motor skill proficiency will most likely have an impact on the child’s adult life as well. If he does not acquire the fundamental motor skills at a young age, keeping critical periods in mind, than he will probably not want to, or be able to, participate in recreational forms of the sport as an adult and may even resent the sport.
Thus, an important determinant in the explanation of, and hopefully extinction of, the “Rightfield Syndrome” is the model of sport that the youth sport baseball coaches and little-league baseball organizations are working from in regards to the participants. Are the coaches and organizations stressing participation and the development of fundamental motor skills? Or, are they taking on the professional model of sport in which winning is the primary goal of participation? The youth of today deserve much more from the game of baseball than a coach’s childhood dreams of making it to the big leagues or winning the championship. They deserve to be taught the fundamentals of the game so that it can be enjoyed for a lifetime both as a participant and a spectator.
As a coach and parent, allow your players to play every position and experience the game of baseball from a variety of viewpoints. This will provide greater enjoyment and development for the kids and produce lifelong players and fans of the game.
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