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Guide to Division Selection

By PVLL, 12/04/15, 10:15AM PST

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One of the most often asked question is “What division should my child play in?”  Second to that is “Can my child play up (and what does that even mean)?”

Hopefully, this guide will help answer those questions so you can maximize your child’s Little League career – making the most positive experience possible.

Before we move forward, we hope you are up to speed on the normal division definitions and age ranges, which can be found here.

In the Beginning…

As a young player in lower divisions, division selection is almost entirely up to the parents.  The primary criteria should be where your child will have the most fun.  Fun is defined differently for every child – where are my friends, where can I be challenged, or where am I not overwhelmed?  Until age 8, where the divisions become competitive and drafting begins, there is much flexibility on what division and team a child can play on.

After the fun question is conquered, we would then turn to age and ability.  T-Ball is very introductory – learning the basics of the game.  How to hold the bat, basics of throwing, and beginning to catch.  One practice and one game per week.  Farm progresses quickly from there – by the end we hope each player can catch, regularly hit from the pitching machine, and outs are enforced by the end.  This means there needs to be some level of maturity from the players.  But, they are still six and seven years old, and we all should understand that.

Upper Divisions

Once your child starts playing in the Upper Divisions (Minors, Intermediates, and Majors), the decision is more straightforward.  Ages to division determinations are typically followed for the majority of players.  However, there is still some changes that can be made.

Playing Up

Every year, there are a number of parents that would like their children to play in a division that is higher than is determined by their age.  For example, a seven-year-old wanting to play Minors or a nine-year-old wanting to play Intermediates.  The league takes these requests very seriously.

To help with this, there is a basic process that you should follow – and a parallel process that the league follows.  Hopefully this helps:

Player/Parents

  1. During registration, you are required to sign up for your assigned division level.  You have the opportunity to request through registration a division change, and note the request.
  2. You should also send an email to the player agent of both the assigned division and the requested division to make sure your request percolates up.  You can find those addresses here.
  3. Your child should tryout with BOTH the age group above and his or her current age group.  That allows the two potential groups of managers to evaluate your child.
  4. At this point, it is sort of out of your hands.

The League

  1. Based on the registration request and communication with the player agents, the league will add your child to the player pool for both divisions (assigned and requested).
  2. The managers will evaluate each child in each player pool (for tryout-based divisions)
  3. The draft process, while complicated, ultimately determines the player’s placement.
    1. For each division, we, as a league, guarantee spots for each player of the assigned age group.  In other words, every ten-year-old is guaranteed a spot in Intermediates – and a nine-year-old cannot take that spot away from ten-year-old (unless the ten-year-old requests to play down).
    2. Based on this, there needs to be spots available in the player pool for a player to play up.  Some years, there are very limited spots (one or none) and some years there are multiple spots (as much as nine in some years).  It changes every year and is solely based on numbers.
    3. If there are spots – say three – then during the drafting, the managers are able to choose three younger players in total.  Once the first three are taken, no more younger players are allowed to be drafted.  Which players are selected is left entirely up to the managers, based on their individual calculus of who to draft.
    4. For players that don’t make it, there is still opportunity to get experience at the upper level.  Each season, players are “called up” to fill spots for injured players.  Players get crucial experience during this, and it is almost always a very positive experience.

11-Year-Olds in Majors

The only age group that is officially split between divisions is the 11-year-olds.  Some will play in Majors and some will play in Intermediates.  The logic follows the steps above, but it is slightly more complicated because it isn’t just a few that play Majors.  In 2015, approximately one-third of 11-year-olds played Majors.  Sometimes, it is a lower or higher percentage, but the number is based on the overall pool of 12-year-olds and 11-year-olds.  It is important to note that every year, some Sixth Grade 11-year-olds play in Intermediates.  They won’t ever be the only ones.  Also, some Fifth Grade 11-year-olds will play Majors.  The new Age Determination rules hope to fix much of this in the next few years (so that divisions are better aligned to grade).  For Little League, we almost only look at “Little League Age” and not grade.

Once the number is set, the draft determines which players will play Majors based on each individual manager’s calculus of who to draft (ability, maturity, experience, etc.).

In this case, there is an opportunity BEFORE THE DRAFT for parents to request that their child remain in Intermediates.  Once the draft happens, there is no way to honor that request.

Playing Down

The league wants to make sure every player maximizes his or her Little League career.  For some, that may mean playing in a lower division than traditionally assigned.  The league supports this, but also wants to make sure that the child fits the division he or she plays in.  We want to make sure the decision follows safety guidelines.  A player that is substantially older than the other children playing could cause a dangerous situation.  Therefore, the league tries to assess ability to determine if the request fits into the framework of the league.  It can be a tough balancing act, but more often than not, requests are honored.

If you have any questions about this process, please reach out to the Player Agents (again, found here).  They can help you and your family work through some of these decisions and intricacies.

We hope whatever you choose, your season is amazingly rewarding for your child.