Traveling youth sports is a culture unto itself. There are pros and cons to getting your child involved, so before you decide to take the plunge, here’s an idea of what you can expect.
Traveling Youth Sports: The negative
It eats up your weekends. Of course it depends on the seriousness of the team, but it’s not unusual for some elite teams to be gone almost every weekend. And if you have two kids playing travel ball at once, like we did, well you can just forget your weekends.
Costs quickly add up. Not only do you have to pay to play, but the costs of food, hotel, and entrance to tournaments very quickly adds up. If your child is not serious about pursuing his sport, then I personally don’t feel travel ball is worth the expense. All three of our kids had goals to play in high school and college, so we figured it was an investment in their future.
Parent politics and drama heats up. Maybe it’s the higher level of competition or the fact that travel club has the stigma of being more serious, but travel ball parents seem to ratchet up their intensity too. If you find a team without politics or drama, you’ve got a rare gem. Hang onto it.
Just because you pay doesn’t mean you play. Parents assume that because all athletes pay the same amount to be on the team, they will have equal playing time. This is absolutely not true. Every single one of the teams that my kids played on, from 6th grade on up, suffered from playing time inequality. Be sure you know before signing up what the coach’s philosophy is or you may be pretty angry about your child’s playing time.
When my oldest playing ASA softball, she played on a very elite team and got very little playing time. However, we knew this going in and she decided to play anyway with the understanding that she would be challenged. I’m not going to say I wasn’t frustrated, but we had fair warning.
Younger siblings may get bored or resentful. At first traveling youth sports may be fun, but getting dragged around the state or country to watch an older sibling play game after game after game can get pretty old. Kids will get bored and cranky. The challenge on how to deal with that is a subject for another post!
Traveling Youth Sports: The positive
Your child will improve from facing tougher competition. Traveling sports attracts a lot of athletes that are more serious about their game, so no doubt your child will boost his performance.
Traveling can be fun. Seeing new sights can be fun, along with eating out or camping or however you choose to do travel ball. And the friends you make on the team can become like family. My son played on a team with the same boys for several years and we were all like family by the time he was done playing AAU basketball.
You will make family memories. My kids still reminisce about their travel ball days. Even with the challenges of being on the road often, we had lots of fun and spent many hours in the car together making memories.
Traveling Youth Sports: Count the Cost
Perhaps you noticed that I listed more negatives than positives. That doesn’t mean that you should not do travel ball; it merely emphasizes the fact that the decision to do travel ball is a serious one. If your child is intent on becoming better in a particular sport and has goals to play in high school and college, then it may be that the sacrifice is worth it for your family.
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