The Ups and Downs of Travel Baseball
Is there really a need for our children to compete in travel sports?
There seems to be a growing trend among young athletes to feel pressured to participate in not only school or recreational sports, but now one must also compete on a travel team. This stems from the belief that in order for your child to be competitive at the next level (high school and beyond), travel sports is the only way to get there.
However, to be on a travel team, your child must try out and make the team. Once they have made the team, then there are fees assessed to pay for competition, uniforms and coaches. That's when the fun starts. Parents then must be willing to give up countless weekends, weekdays, vacations to become fully immersed in the travel ball world. Once you get to the high school level, and with namely baseball, tournaments will start as early as Wednesday and run until Sunday. if you're lucky, it will be a Thursday to Sunday tournament. This now means you have to reserve and pay for hotel rooms, gas, transportation, gate fees to get in to the event, food and everything else that will basically occur on your weekly mini vacations. So, save those vacation days, because you will need them.
The up side? Your son/daughter will get to play at a level they never thought possible and will only get better. At this time, you will get to either see your child's true talent emerge, or you will discover that they may be better off going to Space Camp next year. You will also get a chance to meet some great parents that may become lifelong friends. Your child will also develop friendships outside of school with kids whom they may have never had an opportunity to meet. Those may also last a lifetime.
The down side? This is a brutal and grueling event. It will wear you down, frustrate you and break you. You will meet ALOT of parents living vicariously through their children and believe that they have the next MLB pitcher on their hands. There is a belief that "everyone" should play equal amounts of time. This will NOT happen. Once you get to the high school level, travel baseball teams will have 5-6 pitcher only's on their roster. This means, they are there to only pitch. If they are on, they may pitch an entire game, or at least several innings (based on pitch count). However, if they are having an off day, they may see 5 batters and not see the field again for the rest of the tournament. There is also no guarantee that once your child makes a team, he will remain on that time for the rest of his career. Once you get to the high school level, travel teams are looking to showcase those that they feel will be playing at the next level. If your kid isn't up to that type of rigor, then don't waste the money and time, because in the end you both will end up very unhappy.
Do you have more than one child? Prepare for the other siblings to feel neglected, become bored with being shuffled around and being forced to be a fan/spectator at every event. Then, it gets really interesting when you have more than one playing travel sports. My husband and I have spent literally the last 6 years in different places almost every weekend for the months of June and July. That part sucks! We were lucky enough to have all 3 participating in travel sports at one time. I became the best juggler of events and children known to mankind! Someone was being passed off to someone else every weekend for 6 weeks. It was maddening!
Overall, if you are up to spending thousands of dollars on travel fees, uniforms, hotels, gate fees, gas, food and everything else you need for a weekend away, then travel sports will be fun. Be prepared to have money set aside for all of the things you will need to pay. If you value your vacations with your family, you value your weekends and don't want to give those up, then you will NOT want to start the commitment that travel ball requires.
If I can offer any additional advice it would be to research what you are getting yourselves into. Talk to former players/parents and current players/parents. Check the team website and check around about what their schedules typically look like each year and how much travel you can expect. Don't agree to anything blind and DO NOT buy in to any false promise that your child will be a Division I scholar athlete if they play on this team. That's not how it works! Also, remember that even though your child may be playing at a more competitive level, it still needs to be fun. If not, they will end up hating the sport that may have initially loved.
Travel sports has a lot of good qualities and sometimes just as many bad. Make sure to really become an informed parent before you jump in with both feet. Good luck!