Is Travel Ball The Right Thing for Your Kid?

Is travel ball the right thing for your kid?  This is a question, I have asked myself often.  I have always wondered if not playing, will make a kid fall behind other kids in their sport?  I have wondered about how it effects sportsmanship? As a coach for many years at the high school level, I have always seen the good and bad of kids playing travel sports.  

I will start with the good in travel ball:

  • Players get individualized instruction.
  • Players experience more in game experience ( the more they play, the better they will get)
  • Players focus on an individual sport
  • Players will play against the best players in their state and nearby states
  • It is a confidence booster for kids to be asked to play on a travel team

The questions I have about travel ball:

  • What is the quality of the instruction? 
  • Is it a "money making" scam?
  • How does affect the kid mentally that was the best player and then becomes the average player on a team?
  • What age is best to start them playing?
  • Has travel ball caused a lot of really good players to quit playing prior to high school from burnout?
  • Are we losing the aspect of TEAM by focusing on the I?
  • Do I want my kid to be on an elite team or do I want them to experience other things life has to offer for kids, like camping or going to the lake?
  • Is it causing specialization in sports?

I think a parent must know their kid in order to make decisions on playing travel ball or not.  That parent must be able to know when the kid needs to cut back or do more.  That is a tough thing to recognize as a parent because we get so involved in wanting our kids to be successful that burnout hides from us.  You also have kids that want to make their parents happy by being the best, so it is not easy to make good decisions on how much or little they play travel ball.

I think the best thing that travel ball offers is a chance for skill improvement.  If your kid is receiving quality instruction it can push them to the point of being excellent at their chosen sport.  Unfortunately any dad that is not happy with who their kid is playing ball with can start a travel team.  This has taken the control away from city park leagues and I am not sure this is a good thing, because travel ball is not regulated as well.  A person can make a lot of money starting a travel team, and I have no problem with that if they are giving quality instruction.

I am also concerned about the character education that we are teaching our kids.  I think that playing on a team that has kids that are not great athletes teaches kids about character and caring for their friends.  On some travel ball teams all the players are really good and kids do not get to experience the bonding that is involved with being on a team of unequal skilled players.  I love to win, but not at the expense of kids not learning life lessons.

I know it sounds like I am against kids playing travel ball, but that is not the case, my daughter played travel ball also.  I am just telling parents to be careful and monitor you kid and make sure that they are on the right travel ball team and that it is enjoyable for them!