Hank Steinbrenner, Boss of the New York Yankees, recently blasted Major League Baseball for having to pay revenue sharing compensation to small market clubs. His comments included accusing Major League Baseball of being “socialist or communist” for making big spending teams like the Yankees pay small market teams like the Kansas City Royals simply because they can’t keep up.
Steinbrenner’s comments may be controversial in their own right, but the even bigger looming question is how beneficial having enormous disparity and competitive imbalance is when it comes to sports? In baseball, the same 6-8 big team markets consistently outspend the rest of the league, and as a result are usually in the chase for a championship at the end of the season. Of course, underdogs can still compete – and sometimes even win – but their chances are greatly reduced by not having the money to buy the most talented free agents.
Competitive balance is something every league should strive for, even if this approach sometimes works better in theory than it does practice. This does not mean that every team should be exactly equal, as that would be impossible to do. What it does mean, however, is that every team should have equal opportunities to develop the best team possible (The Parents Playbook).
In youth sports, where team selection processes often vary depending on a number of factors, it is important to try and not “load up” a team if at all possible. When kids feel as though they have a chance to win, they will improve motivation, increase focus, and bounce back from adversity more quickly. On the other hand, when leagues become stacked it doesn’t really benefit either the good or bad teams. In these cases, the stacked teams often play too loosely without having much competition, and the bad teams lose in their minds before ever taking the field.
For families, it is important to use this same thinking process and positive role modeling when evaluating the type of league you choose for your child. While your heart may tell you that your child is a superstar and should be playing in a travel league, her real talents might be more similar to recreational athletes. Sometimes parents sign their children up for sports that are too competitive and as a result they don’t get playing time and quickly lose their confidence, focus, and motivation.The opposite problem can also occur for families – that is, they sign their talented child up for a remedial league. Problems can happen in this example as well, as kids who are overly-talented playing against less talented competition can also become bored, disinterested, and disengaged.