“Not Good Enough,” Is that What TABB Aims to Teach Our Kids? 

Not good enough.  Those are painful words for any parent or child to hear.  In the case of my son Beckett, they are even more poignant.  That’s because they are words I’ve come accustomed to hearing him say.  You see Beckett is technically not my son.  He came to our family from a broken home on the cusp of his 5th birthday.  He was born addicted to drugs and by all accounts had spent the vast majority of his first few years watching TV or playing video games.  I won’t go into all the details but suffice to say he was in a sorry state.  At 75 lbs he had already entered childhood obesity.  He was so large that he loudly snored at night.  He couldn’t ride a tricycle, let alone a bike.  He couldn’t even climb the steps to the slide at the park, put on his pants, or wipe his bottom.  Asking him to do slightly more complicated tasks like putting on a shirt or holding a pencil and writing something was like asking him to climb Mt. Everest.

He was neglected for most of his life and his mantra had become, “I’m not good enough.”  Each time my wife and I tried to get him to try new things he would literally cry and those were the words we would hear.  “I can’t.  I’m not good.”

I was hesitant to put him in sports at first as I was worried about putting him in that competitive environment, but we gave Taekwondo a shot.  The first few sessions he literally sat in the back and cried in my arms while his sister practiced.  I’m not good at Taekwondo he would tell me.  Once he gained the courage to try, however, he soon came to love it. After 6 months, he had lost almost 30 pounds and I put him in T-ball despite his objections.  Later, he didn’t want to play soccer, because he was no good he said – but I signed him up anyway.  We got the same story with basketball.  “I can’t, I’m no good”.

Here’s the thing with Beckett, just like Taekwondo he can do it and he ends up enjoying it and doing fine once he gains the courage to try.  He loves soccer and basketball now and in my estimation is quite good. You should see him on the field.  He’s a totally different kid than he was two years ago.  But that’s not why I keep pushing sports on him.  At 7 years old, he has already overcome a drug addiction and obesity.  That’s more than a lot of people can say in a lifetime, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have tough challenges ahead.  I want him to have something like sports as an outlet.  Something that will give him confidence, help him form friendships, and keep him active and away from the TV and video games he so craves.

That’s why I signed him up for little league this year and bought him a brand new bat and a bucket of balls to hit with for Christmas.  We had been focusing more on soccer and basketball and I was looking forward to getting him involved with Little League.

TABBWith that backdrop, we headed for TABB tryouts.  Beckett had never tried out for anything before.  He was intimidated and I could see him giving up before he even started.  The ball sailed over his head.  The grounders went right past him and he barely even swung at the few pitches thrown his way.  It didn’t help that he was also pretty sick.  He had missed school the day before with a fever and ended up not playing in a basketball game he had later that day when the fever came back that afternoon.  I wouldn’t have taken him to the tryouts at all, but TABB seemed pretty serious about not missing it.   I knew he could do better than he did as I’ve pitched to him many times, but I was proud of him for getting out there even when he wasn’t feeling good.  What’s the big deal I thought?  It’s just a try-out for 1st grade Little League.  Who really cares how well he does?

Well it turned out to be a much bigger deal than I thought and some people did care, a lot.  I thought the try-out was just for the coaches to get a sense for his skill level so they could draft accordingly.  Little did I know they were also determining whether he was even good enough for the league.  A few days later I got a call from TABB telling me Beckett couldn’t play with the other 7 year olds and that if he was going to play TABB he had to play with 5 year-olds in the younger non-competitive league.  Astounded, I plead Beckett’s case to the league President and explained to him that a decision like this would only reinforce the idea I’ve been trying to shake in Beckett’s mind that he is no good.  It’s not so much I worry that he will think he is “no good” at baseball, I’m much more concerned about him thinking that he is “no good” as a person.  Sports were meant to help him change that viewpoint about himself, not reinforce it.  I thought for sure once I explained the situation to the TABB president that they would understand and allow Beckett to play with his friends and peers that he plays soccer and basketball with.  Unbelievably, I was wrong.

I received the final ruling from the TABB league President yesterday.  According to TABB, Beckett is not good enough to play 1st grade Little League.  He was not even given a chance to be re-evaluated.  They threw him a few grounders, tossed him a few pitches and labeled him “not good enough.”  So it goes in TABB.  I’ve been involved with youth sports nearly all my life and up until now I’ve never heard of a league doing something like that to a 1st grader.

They phrased it to me as a safety issue even though I told them I would be more than willing to have Beckett play outfield the entire season if safety was really the concern.  This decision was made despite language in the TABB Rules of Operation indicating that a parent must agree to a decision to move a player down to a lower league.

As a parent, what am I to make of this?  How do you explain to a kid like Beckett that he’s not allowed to play in the same division as his friends from school and from his soccer and basketball teams?  I am heartbroken for him.  I can only presume that TABB is more about the coaches and parents forming playoff contending teams than it is about the kids.  Even at the 1st grade level, it appears it’s more about winning than having fun and learning a sport.  If that is the case, then I find that very sad.

Beckett wasn’t born to me, but he has become my son.  He’s a great kid and my best bud.  That last thing I want for him is for someone to tell him he’s not good enough.  That said, I didn’t write this so people can feel sorry for him or us.  My hope is that if you believe what TABB did is wrong, as I do, then you will write to the TABB Board found here and tell them so.  Maybe if enough people say something, then a future kid like Beckett won’t be labeled “not good enough” by TABB before he even gets a chance.

13 comments

  • Anonymous

    West Torrance Little League just around the corner from West High School would love to have the Paulson family in the league where all kids and families are welcome. Play ball.

    • I just signed up with West Torrance today. Thank you West Torrance Little League for opening your arms to Beckett and embracing our family. We are looking forward to a great season!

  • resident in Torrance

    From the youtube video, your son looks great swinging that bat. The story you told really disgusts me that this is happening here in Torrance, where I live. Please have your son keep playing sports and hope you contact West Torrance Little League.

  • Aynonomous

    It’s unfortunately not the first time I have heard something like this about TABB. As a parent your story just broke my heart. Beckett is so blessed to have you both as parents and his advocate! I thought he looked great in the video. Every kid has there good and bad days. Tryouts can be especially nerve racking for a child. I am so happy to hear that West Torrance welcomed Beckett with open arms. We will see you over there. After hearing your story…we will NOT be returning to TABB!
    We look forward to a great season of baseball and FUN!! Best of luck!!

  • JL

    Little League and TABB are not the same thing. I have heard mixed things about TABB. But we have done Little League and only had good experiences.

  • Anonymous

    Please don’t use our tax dollars fighting your own personal issues on the Torrance City Council’s website. Take this blog somewhere else as it is filled with untruths.

    • I assure you that no tax dollars are spent on this website. I pay all expenses associated with this site out of my own pocket. I also exercise great care to ensure all information presented on this site is factually based. What untruths are you specifically referring to? I would be happy to retract any innacurate information.

  • Anonymous

    Glad your Boy found a place to play.But understand TABB and little league are not the same thing.And most TABB players are more advanced and likely playing Travel baseball. You should have looked at Rivera very low key and less Competitive.I have no issue with a league or president doing what he thinks is best for the kid or the league that’s what he is in place to do.I know the TABB president and he loves kids and devotes a mass amount of his time to the league for absolutely no pay.Sometimes things will not go our kids way and there is a lesson in that.
    Explain to your son he didn’t do well in the tryout and then explain to him he has the opportunity to get better and work very hard and try it again next year. Parents are no longer willing to let there children have set backs in fear of hurting there self esteem so they are robbing them of the chance to develop some resilience and work ethic.

    I went through a similar situation with my daughter with a club soccer team.She went to practice for over 6 months they never offered her a spot and brought on many girls to the team in that 6 month period and gave them uniforms right in her face,kids and parents made fun of her but during it all i told her work hard and you will have the last laugh,She is now one of the top players in the country at her position a varsity player as a freshman and a member of the Olympic development program for California. I could have Called someone and complained or just moved her but then i would have robbed my Daughter of the chance to prove to herself that she could succeed if she worked very hard and gave her heart and soul to something.

    Sounds like your little guy is a fighter and has been fighting since he was born be honest with him and let him surprise you with his ability to step up and improve. You only improve as a player and person through failure my friend! Don’t rob him of these experiences due to you over parenting due to his rough start in life

    • I appreciate you being willing to comment and adding your perspective on this issue. You make several valid points. I know there are many great people in TABB that work tirelessly on behalf of the kids and that many have a great experience with the league. I wouldn’t have signed up in the first place if I didn’t believe that was the case.

      The distinction your are trying to draw between Little League and TABB is really a moot point. I understand that TABB is a PONY affiliate versus a formal little league affiliate and as a PONY affiliate I realize that it has slightly different rules than Little League when it comes to field dimensions and age groupings, etc. Nonetheless, as much as some involved with TABB may otherwise want it to be, TABB is not a CLUB league and does not advertise itself as such. CLUB teams, such as the one you experienced with your daughter, are generally designed to be exclusionary. TABB is not. It is supposedly open to all skill levels. At no point prior to or after signing up was I warned my kid may not be good enough to play with his peers. Quite the contrary, TABB’s own rules of operation dictate that I, as parent, would have to agree to have my kid dropped to a lower league. The TABB President and Board, no matter how well intentioned they may have been, violated their own league rules of operation. If TABB really wants to be a hyper competitive CLUB organization, then they should drop their affiliation with PONY and become a CLUB league.

      As for my over-parenting, just because life is full of hard lessons doesn’t mean I should manufacture failure opportunities for my kids – especially when I’m dealing with a child that has already had enough set-backs for a lifetime. He has had, and will have many more opportunities to gain strength from overcoming a disappointment. Signing up for 1st Grade Little League or PONY league does not need to be one of those instances. I didn’t sign him up to become a professional, college, or even a high school player. I just wanted him to have some fun with kids his own age and develop some friendships. I thought TABB could offer that. I was wrong.

      By the way, PONY stands for Protect Our Nations Youth – sadly some in TABB seem to have forgotten that and it appears the league is more about winning than protecting.

      • Anonymous

        I respectfully disagree with your assessment of the situation as a coach of over 25 years and a current youth coach (not at TABB) I feel the Tabb organization was looking out for what they thought was the best interest of the young man involved by putting him in a situation to succeed and grow. Not in a situation where he may be behind the other players and maybe have bad results in turn damaging his self esteem even further.

        My nephew would be in the same division that they suggested your Son play in at TABB he is 6 1/2 your boy is 7 so i would consider them peers. I’m certain your son would have not known the difference in a half a year difference. And played and had a blast doing it.

        Is it possible that you took this to personal and only saw the negative instead of the positive in the situation? being a bit older and more mature may have just been the little advantage your boy needed to have a successful season and put those pesky self doubts to rest for good? This is I’m sure a point of view that you were open minded enough to explore instead of just thinking the worst of people who donate there time to the youth of our city for zero gain for themselves and do it for the love of kids and the love of sport.

        And as parents we don’t get to manufacture the moments that life is unfair and hard so we need to take them as they come and give the child a chance to step up.Let me be honest every bone in my body screamed this is unfair when my daughter was crying on the rides home telling me she was not good enough. And my nature as her father was to make it go away.That’s when we discovered Ice Cream makes all things better and when she asked me Daddy i want you to be honest with me in sports always even if you think it will hurt my feelings because it will make me stronger.

        You are obviously a loving father and involved parent and that’s Amazing and your son is a lucky boy to have you as his advocate.I just urge you to sometimes let things play out as you might have moved him from a situation he would have benefited from and really gained some needed confidence.

        look at the example He is 7 so he gets to go down and play with 5 and 6 year old’s for one year and realistically is one of the older stronger more dominate kids in the league. He gains all kinds of confidence and in turn opens up to new experiences and makes a ton of friends(which is really why we have our kids play sports).

        Or you move him to another league and he plays with 7 and 8 year Old’s and struggles and there is an obvious difference in his confidence level and it is a bad experience all around and he retreats even more into a lack of confidence or willingness to try new things.

        I will tell you one thing i have learned from coaching kids for a long time. Actual athletic talent at the young ages are not really always shown as some kids are shy and lack confidence and the more mature and aggressive kids have an early advantage but over time the other shy kids get comfortable and accumulate themselves to the situation all they need is a coach or a league willing to let them make these positive strides in there own time not imaginary guidelines set by parents or other kids or society.

        You say that the TABB board was not looking out for the best interest of your child. And i say there thoughtful decision was giving your boy the time he needed to get his feet under him and improve and succeed. Either way im happy he found a spot and you feel comfortable with where he is at.

        • You mention your daughter was crying telling you she was not good enough. Why would I want my child to feel that way at 7 years old? I signed him up to play with his 1st grade friends. Being told he was not good enough to play with those same friends would have done him a great disservice. He for sure would have known as those same friends at school and on his basketball team would have asked him why he was playing in the lower league with 5 year olds that haven’t even entered kindergarten yet. I hear what you are saying and I’m sure the TABB leadership shares some of your thoughts. Bottom line, however, is that TABB should not be doing this to 7 year olds without parental consent – especially when it goes against their own league rules of operation. That’s my opinion. If that’s how they want to operate, then they should become a CLUB organization as I stated in my previous comment.

          I don’t want to sound grandiose, but as a parent I think I might have a little better insight into what’s best for my kid than a couple of TABB folks that threw my kid a few pitches and a few grounders and watched him for a minute and a half.

  • Anonymous

    My son plays at TABB for the last couple of years. I know there are some groups of parents don’t agree with the way TABB treats players. Yes, I have heard “not good enough”, “you are too short” etc at different occasions. There are even subtle discriminations. I understand the coach makes his son the pitcher if not excessive (the reality is “again?!”). But what I don’t like is the coach selectively putting “not good enough” kids on the bench. I understand that the better player should be given longer playtime (winning is important!) but when they had more than 9 players 5 players should take turns at least. The kids come to the field to play, not to sit.

  • Anonymous

    I would caution folks about West Torrance Little League. They pull the same kind of stuff. There is a new board this year and they are incredibly self serving and disingenuous.

    Sometimes people volunteer for sports leagues not out of the goodness of their heart, but so they can get their kids on all stars, control who their kids play with, etc.

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