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Cheating on youth sports draft night

Posted by John Reed on

One of the things that make my how-to books different from those written by others is that my books are real world. This time of year is a case in point. This month or next month are the months when spring youth sports hold their drafts.

What do my baseball and flag football books say that’s real world about the youth sports drafts? The long-term insider coaches cheat in the draft.

Youth Baseball Coaching bookCoaching Youth Flag Football bookCoaching Teenage and Adult Baseball book
It is so bad that many youth sports observers comment—accurately—that the competition for league championship is over on draft night.

The coaches who have been in the league in question for a long time and who are office politicians know how to game the system and make sure the draft rules are either slanted to help them do so or, if they re not, are not enforced.

The main way of cheating is to claim that the fathers of two of two or three players who would be first-round draft picks are your close personal friends and that you should be allowed to pick your assistant coaches and of course those fathers should be able to coach heir own sons.

Obviously, each team gets one first round draft pick by definition. But the coaches who pull this trick get about four or five first round picks BEFORE THE DRAFT. Then they get their actual first-round pick so they end up with a first-round pick for each coach’s son plus another one.

When you consider that youth teams have a very high ratio of players on the field to players on the roster, you realize just three to five players is extremely significant. For example, my flag team had 9 on the field and 11 on the roster. Little League is typically 9 on the field and 12 on the roster. So four first-round draft picks.

Furthermore, top athletes at a few positions in baseball and football can dominate the game from those positions, like pitchers in baseball and running backs, quarterbacks, and middle linebackers in football. Soccer, for example, has less opportunity for a couple of great athletes to dominate the game.

In baseball there are strict rules for how many innings each pitcher can pitch, so normal teams are forced to use weak pitchers maybe half or three quarters of their innings. The teams whose head coach just happened to be “friends” with the fathers of three top draft picks can always put a top pitcher on the mound.

Are there other ways to cheat? Oh, yeah. For example, new kids who come to the community and who are checked out athletically by one of the in-crowd coaches and told to sandbag the tryout so the coach in question can get a high draft round talent cheap by having the kid fall to a late round by looking spastic at the tryout. I discuss all that in my books.

Why do I have almost a monopoly on books that discuss real world things like this? I can only guess. Some won’t say these things because they are still trying to be politically popular in the community in question. I don’t give a rat’s rump about that crap. To paraphrase Henry Clay, “I’d rather be right than coach.”

Others who know these things are embarrassed by them. Certainly, the coaches who won the league championship on draft night want to preserve the lie that they are great coaches.

My books tell you how to deal with this stuff, although much of it is local politics which I proudly say is not my area of expertise. You can agitate for a fair draft or at least limit the number of coach friend draft exemptions. You can grade the sons of the fathers and not allow multiple first-round draft picks on one team. My favorite is to have the most experienced coaches pick all the teams—leaving the head coaches’ sons off the teams, and only the head coach gets to be on his son’s team. Then the various teams are thrown into a hat and doled out to the coaches at random. In other words, it is in the interest of the experienced coaches to make the whole league as equal as possible because they do not know which team will be theirs. That’s called a blind draft and it is the only kind that should ever be used.

Good luck on draft night—or better yet—get informed for draft night and increase the chances your league will have the parity that is supposedly a hallmark of youth sports.


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