Regardless of the sport, there seems to be no shortage of travel teams here in South Florida. The great year round weather gives our children the opportunity to play any sport, any time of the year, all year round. It appears that many parents and coaches are leaving their local optimist leagues, (rec ball), to give the child the opportunity to play on travel teams for various reasons.
As a parent and coach of a soon to be 12 year, I’ve questioned myself whether it’s time for my son to join a travel team. I’ve come to believe that there although there are many factors in the decision, there is one factor that supersedes all. Does YOUR CHILD really want to play travel? Did they bring it up on their own ? Or is it you, as a parent, that is driving “their” decision to play?
If your child wakes up in the morning and the first thing they do is turn on ESPN to watch highlights of their favorite sport, if they can rattle off the names of players on their favorite teams, if they play that particular sport during THEIR free time with friends when they have options to do other activities, then it’s pretty easy to say they would welcome the commitment to travel. However, if they complain about having to go to practice for various reasons, and it seems more of a chore to them, then you may want to reconsider.
Over the years, I’ve come across several personal friends and family members that felt it was in the best interest of their child to play on a travel team without asking their child if they were interested. They had their children play on travel teams when they were as young as 7 years old. These kids played on teams that traveled hours across the state, sometimes out of state, and played as many as 3 games a day on the weekend for 8-10 hours a day. Some of these parents wanted their child to eventually play on the high school team and were hopeful that would increase their chances. Some saw it as a way to earn a college scholarship by excelling at that sport. Some may even be hopeful of their child becoming a professional athlete despite the odds. Unfortunately, by the time their children attended high school, they had no desire to play despite being very good players. In these instances, the child was not only “burned out” but they never truly wanted to put in the time and effort- in essence, it was a chore to them. It was their parents imposing their will on them to play and eventually it backfired.
So here are some other points you may want to consider, in no particular order, when making the decision to travel:
* Is your child considered one of the better players on their team/league?
* Does he/she enjoying practicing that sport in order to improve? Are they willing to train? Or do they only seem interested in playing in games?
* Are they “competitive” by nature? Do they have a drive and desire to play and practice at a high level?
* Do they continue to work hard when “going gets tough”? (Players that are used to dominating may have trouble accepting that they are no longer one of the best).
So is your child ready to play travel? Well, if you can answer “yes” to all of above- I would say “Go for It”! As for my son- I’m giving it the green light. However, next we need to find a travel team that meets our needs for him and our family. But that’s a topic for another blog!