Making The Jump To Competitive Baseball
As you or your youth player gets older, the idea of playing in more competitive baseball circuits, or even joining a travel ball is bound to pop up. It’s natural for kids and parents to want to look to what comes next, but the question is are you ready to take that next leap? Here are some things to consider in your decision.
- Time Commitment
A myth about travel ball is the number of games that are played far exceeds that of local recreational leagues. Most rec leagues will play about two games per week, so eight games a month. Travel teams play is four games every other weekend, so also eight games a month. While some teams will enter a few more tournaments resulting in some more games played, it will not be drastically different. What will be different, is the time commitment.
Traveling a couple of hours every other weekend may not sound like a big deal, but when you factor in spending two whole days (three if it is a holiday weekend) at a ballpark and away from home, those “couple hours” really start to add up. Make sure both you and your player are ready to commit to the amount of time it takes to play at a more competitive level.
- Financial Commitment
This goes without saying, but playing competitive baseball does cost more money. Tournament fees, team fees, and league fees are only part of the equation. What most families overlook, is the need for better, more expensive equipment. A baseball bat that you got for $100 may be perfect for recreational ball, but it will most likely not cut it at a higher level. Most higher-level bats will cost you $150 to $350, though with the higher price tag you do get a longer-lasting bat.
But added fees and more expensive equipment can add up very quickly and before you know it, you are spending a couple of thousand dollars a year. So make sure you are not only ready and able to make this commitment but make sure that your player is going to get your money’s worth as well.
- Who Are The Coaches
Before signing up with a travel team, get to know who the coaches are. Remember you will be spending a lot of time with them over the season and they will be working with your player quite a bit. If their views on coaching and the game do not align enough with yours, or if your player and the coach do not get along particularly well, it might be worth waiting a little longer before moving to the next level, or maybe you can find another team as an option.
All it takes is one bad experience or one bad coach to ruin a player’s love for the game forever. So make sure the coach and the team are a good fit for you before signing on.
- What Other Interests Does My Player Have
This is related to the time commitment. Consider if your player has other interests outside of baseball. It’s good to play other sports, or pick up other hobbies as this makes for a well-rounded childhood and as kids get older, they tend to pick up other interests. If you notice your child’s interest in the game is beginning to fade, maybe travel ball is not the correct answer.
Also, consider your player’s age. According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, about 70% of children in the United States stop playing organized sports by the age of 13 because of boredom, or in the worst case, burnout.
If your player is approaching 13 or older, and still loves playing baseball, travel and competitive teams could be an option for you.
- My Player’s Skill Level
Travel teams do start to put more of a priority on winning more so than development, so the best players see the bulk of playing time. By no means does your player have to be an all-star to play travel ball, but it does not make much sense to invest so much money and time for your child to ride the bench on his team.
Be honest when evaluating your player’s skill level, and ask his coaches what they think, or even a potential travel ball coach. They will be able to point you in the right direction.
Travel and competitive baseball can be an amazing experience for any youth player looking for a new challenge in the game or looking to go to the next level. We do not point these factors out to scare anyone away. We simply want to make sure you are prepared for what comes next and help you make the best decision for you and your player, and to make sure that their love and passion for baseball only gets stronger, regardless of what level of play they are in. Because in the end, baseball is a game, and games are supposed to be fun. If you aren’t having fun, then what’s the point?