Author Archives: New York Sports Connection

Guide to Finding the Best Youth Baseball Program

 

Our partners at New York Sports Connection provide our Kidz Central Station families an insider guide to finding the right youth baseball program for your child.

Guide to Youth Baseball with Kidz Central Station
Baseball is the national pastime and something many kids grow up playing. Yet, knowing when and how to introduce young players to the sport can be confusing. Below we explain some of the particulars of youth baseball, as well as, the different options available to the burgeoning ballplayer.

When considering organized programs for young players, we recommend parents focus on those that make the game fun while also providing much-needed instruction from coaches with experience with specific age groups.

 

Age Determines Play Level in Youth Baseball

In youth baseball, the level at which a child plays is normally determined by their age not their skill level. A child’s “baseball age” is set by their age on April 30th each calendar year. For example, if a child turns eight on April 29 they play 8U that spring and summer. A child who turns eight on May 1 will play on 7U teams (because they were still seven on April 29th). While players can play “up” and join an older team if they have the skills to do so, they cannot play “down” and play with younger kids even if their skills match those of the younger players.

 

Field Sizes Vary for Different Ages

Different age teams play on different size fields. Field sizes are listed by the distance from the pitching rubber to home plate and the distance between the bases. For example, Little Leagues (11 and 12 year olds) play on 46/60 fields, meaning the pitching rubber is 46 feet from home plate and the distance between bases is 60 feet. There are various incremental steps (50/70, 54/80) before players advance to a regulation 60/90 field (actually 60’6”). Most advance to the larger field around the time they play 13U ball.

 

Tee Ball May Be Your Child’s First Step into Youth Baseball

The first step for most young players is tee ball (usually ages 4-7). As the name implies, batters hit a ball placed on a stationary stand (tee) that is secured to home plate rather than a pitch thrown from the pitcher’s mound. The thinking is that young players don’t have the hand eye coordination to hit live pitching. Tee ball fields are even smaller than the 46/60 Little League fields. The goal at this level is to teach kids hitting and fielding fundamentals and to get them to enjoy the game. In many tee ball leagues, scores and outs are not recorded. Instead, each player on a team gets to bat each inning. Remember, the idea is to make it easier on hitters while keeping kids engaged.

 

Try Coach Pitch After Tee Ball

Tee ball can eventually evolve into coach pitch, the theory being that young kids are not adept enough to throw strikes consistently. Coaches are not trying to get batters out. They want batters swinging and hitting. Coach pitch is usually for ages 6-8, but can begin earlier or last longer for some. There are many variations of coach pitch leagues with some having no walks, or a coach coming in to pitch after a kid pitcher has “walked” a batter. As with tee ball, the aim of coach pitch is for kids to develop a love of the game and to encourage them to want to continue playing at higher levels.

 

The Evolution to Kid Pitch Leagues and Baseball

This is when baseball begins to feel like the sport kids watch on TV. Kid pitch leagues can be recreational/community leagues, accredited Little Leagues (the ones that culminate with regional and national championships held in Williamsport, PA), and travel teams.

  • Little Leagues are governed by Little League Baseball. The spring/summer Little League season runs from late March or early April to mid-June. There are strict residency rules with players only allowed to play for leagues in zones where they live. Some Little Leagues also play fall schedules. In Little League, players are generally assigned to teams in the hope of forming balanced teams. The main Little Leagues (often called “Majors”) is for 11 and 12 year olds. After that players graduate to Junior (13 and 14) and Senior (15-18) teams.
  • Challenger Baseball. Both Little League and many recreational leagues provide Challenger Baseball for children with disabilities to enjoy the sport. Outs and runs are often not counted.
  • Rec Baseball. Most rec leagues play two games per week, usually a Saturday or Sunday doubleheader. These leagues are open to all players regardless of skill. Rec teams normally only practice before their scheduled games.
  • Travel Baseball. Travel or tournament baseball can start as young as 7U. Travel baseball is more competitive, has more talented players (teams hold tryouts for open spots), requires more of a time commitment (more practices and travel to tournaments), and costs more. Some travel teams play three seasons – spring, summer and fall.

 

Great Sports Summer Camp Options

Not many years ago the best way for a young athlete in NYC to get a solid summer sports camp experience was to attend a sleep away camp outside of the city. Not anymore! In today’s robust youth sports scene, NYC is home to a wide array of summer sports day camps for kids of every age and skill level. Here are some great choices for this summer. As with other sought after programs spots are filling up quickly so don’t wait!

Downtown Giants
A mainstay of the Lower Manhattan youth sports scene since 2006, Downtown Giants runs two football camps for players ages 7-17. The June camp at the Battery Park fields focuses on flag football with drills, skills and games. A July camp, held at Chelsea Waterside field adds some tackle football drills to its flag football lineup. Whether your child is looking to get better for the fall flag or tackle football seasons or is just looking for a fun time, both camps will meet your needs. Highly skilled and energetic DTG coaches run both weeklong camps.

Mo’ Motion
Mo’ Motion offers several exciting summer camp options including its full-day Camp Motion Hoop & Travel (boys grades 4-8), Multi-Sport (co-ed grades K-6), Overtime (co-ed grades 5 and up) and its Camp Motion Hoops half-day camp (co-ed grades k-4 in AM and grades 5-10 in PM sessions). The camps provide targeted basketball training, top-level instruction, games and exercise as well as visits to other parks, ping-pong tournaments, bowling and boxing. Camps are held outdoors in Riverside Park and indoors at the Brearley Field house on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Columbia Sports Camps
Not only do attendees of Columbia University’s Little Lions Day Camp (co-ed ages 6-12) get to enjoy the school’s historic campus in Morningside Heights, they also have access to its top-notch athletic facilities. Little Lions is a kid-centered, fun-based camp that aims to keep kids physically and creatively active with a combination of classic PE games, backyard favorites, sports, arts and crafts, and special surprises run by a highly trained, eclectic staff. For older kids Columbia also runs 17 specialized sport-specific camps run by Division I coaches and Columbia student athletes.

Grapplin’ Gorillas
Grapplin’ Gorillas’ is one of the few youth wrestling programs in New York City, but it’s summer camp is about more than grappling and takedowns. In fact, it’s all about movement. In addition to teaching wrestling fundamentals, the camp incorporates non-wrestling games, dance and yoga into each day’s activities. Wrestling groups are created by both age and skill. The camp is open to boys and girls ages 4-13 and takes place at The Center at West Park on West 86th Street in Manhattan. Outdoor activities such as nuke ‘em, kickball and capture the flag are played in Central Park.

Riverside Parks
Taking advantage of the scenic fields and courts in Riverside Park between 96th and 110th streets, the Riverside Parks Conservancy offers a weekly low-cost, high-quality sports camp experience for children ages 4 to 14. Sport choices include baseball (run by Kids of Summer), basketball, soccer (run by the Carlos Oliveira Soccer Academy), tennis (Riverside Clay Tennis Association), flag football and multi sport. The camps run from June 4 – August 24.

Dutch Total Soccer
For budding soccer stars, Dutch Total Soccer is running a series of camps that offer instructional training and game play. Camps are held at Aviator Sports in Brooklyn and are for boys and girls ages 5 – 15 (camp for players ages 5-7 are half-days).  All camps are geared to help players progress through team play and age-appropriate individual skill development and to challenge them mentally, all in a fun camp experience.  A low staff to camper ratio means all participants will have the benefits of a personalized training environment.

PGA Golf Camp
Just a short drive to the Dunwoodie Golf Course in Yonkers offers beginner to intermediate golfers (ages 8-14) the opportunity to participate in a four-day PGA Junior Golf Camp.  There are four sessions running from July 9 to Aug. 23. Each day includes three hours of hands-on instruction lead by certified PGA Professionals who focus on developing golf skills (full swing, short game, rules and etiquette) while keeping the experience fun and engaging (games and activities). Half-day camps are designed to inspire new golfers and further the development of those playing at an intermediate level. Campers are always grouped by age and playing level. Students will also receive on-course playing time.

PSG Academy NY
Given their belief that the US has many talented soccer players with promising futures, PSG NY works to provide those players with high-quality practices led by certified and experienced coaches from countries that built world champions. As such, PSG Academy’s NY summer camps offer training similar to top European academies with emphasis on technical work, small-sided game and scrimmages. In addition to NYC camps on Randall’s Island and in Brooklyn, PSG also holds camps in New Rochelle and the Hamptons. Coaches provide players with personal evaluations on technical and physical skills at the beginning and the end of each week.

Kids in Sports
Kids in Sports summer camps are filled with the sports and activities kids love including baseball, basketball, floor hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer and volleyball. Cooperative games emphasizing the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship are a staple of all camps and all ages.  Camps always feature a low ratio of coaches to campers.  Younger campers also participate in arts and crafts, story-time and other free-play activities.  Choose from indoor camp in Manhattan (ages 2.5-6) and outdoors on Randall’s Island (ages 4-8 with transportation included)

Kids in the Game
Kids in the Game runs weekly camps for kids ages 4-14 in Park Slope, the Upper West and East Sides, Inwood and Riverdale. Camp counselors include current and former college athletes, teachers, and fitness coaches to ensure kids get the most fulfilling and enriching experience possible. Activities include sports, arts & crafts, zumba, and swimming.  Offsite field trips have included visits to a NY Yankees/Mets games, Bronx Zoo, LEGOLAND, and area museums.