As the season comes to a close, tryouts for next season’s travel teams are upon us. Should your child enter the world of travel ball? As often happens as a parent, you wonder about what is the right thing to do. And as often happens, the answer is, “It depends.”
There are a lot of conflicting opinions about life skills that can be learned through baseball and softball as well as the insanity of travel sports. And both are true. Your child will learn a strong work ethic, perseverance and teamwork as well as build their character in many other critical ways. I’ve also witnessed a lot of crazy. Heck, I’ve done crazy.
The first question to consider is how much your child truly loves the game. Not how much you love the game but how much your child loves the game. Do they pick up a ball just for fun? Do they ask you to play and practice with them or are you always pushing a game of catch in the yard? If their “big” holiday gift each year is a new bat or glove, will they be thrilled beyond belief or feel disappointed? If they could select an activity as a special treat, would their first choice be a softball/baseball camp?
If your child truly loves the game, travel might be a good option. If not, it probably would be wise to continue to play in a recreational league and explore other activities. We can’t choose our child‘s passion. Our job as parents is to help them discover their passion and provide as many opportunities as we can to pursue it.
Next question to consider is if travel ball fits into your family life. Do you realistically have the time to drive to lessons and practices during the off season and tournament most weekends during the season?Many families car pool and while it isn’t unusual for parents to miss several games (there are just so many of them!), the sport is still time consuming.
And while most families would agree they don’t have the funds available for travel ball, we all seem to find it. Because it is expensive between the fees, equipment, lessons and travel expenses and the cost is a factor you should consider. Many teams do a significant amount of fundraising which can be helpful but there will still be costs involved. Realistically, do you have the time and funds to accommodate a travel ball?
If you decide travel ball is something you want to explore, there are teams for nearly every level of player. For your first year, a local or regional team with limited travel can be a wise choice. It also is a good idea to try out for several different teams to determine the best fit for your child and your family.
Travel ball can be a positive experience with tremendous opportunities for the athlete who is truly passionate about the game. And while your child may never play at a professional level, the experience will teach life lessons that will help shape their future success off the field.