Sports

Youth Sports in the Suburbs: ‘It’s Big Business’

Members of the Jackie Robinson West All Stars Little League baseball team participate in a rally celebrating the team's U.S. Little League Championship Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Members of the Jackie Robinson West All Stars Little League baseball team participate in a rally celebrating the team’s U.S. Little League Championship Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(Daily Herald) – Suburban parents and coaches say the saga of Jackie Robinson West losing its Little League title is an example of the problems facing youth sports today, and it’s driven by money, overly involved parents and coaches who face intense pressure to win.

The solution to the problems remains a matter of debate, but local youth sports coaches say the Jackie Robinson West story has started important conversations about what’s best for a child — and it’s not winning at any cost.

“The moral of the story is … be careful of the pressure you put on these kids, and the expectations you set for them,” said Alonso Ramirez of Des Plaines, a former Jackie Robinson West team member who now coaches baseball at Palatine High School. “We’re trying to create adults here, not professional athletes.”

On Wednesday, Jackie Robinson West, the national champion Little League team from Chicago’s South Side, was stripped of its titles because it violated player boundary rules. The investigation began when a suburban coach alleged the team violated the rules by poaching top players from nearby suburbs. The Little League organization determined that Jackie Robinson West not only changed its boundaries, but also that league officials went to surrounding leagues to persuade them to go along with it.

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