What do you want your son to gain from playing youth travel baseball (12u and under)? Why are you committing hours and hours, days upon days, weekend after weekend, for this youth travel baseball lifestyle? College scholarship? Forget it. No college scholarships will be given out on the small field. A national ranking? No college coach has ever asked my son how his travel ball team ranked on the small field.
How about winning some prestigious travel ball tournament? Those trophies were cool for about a week but now they’re simply collecting dust and waiting for a storage box. What about an activity for the family? Ask the little brothers and sisters whether they like spending hours upon hours at the fields. If you have the time to do other non-baseball related activities during the tournament off-hours, then maybe. How about for social reasons? Go play rec ball, make friends, and save the money. Nothing wrong with that. What about helping him get to the next level (i.e. the big field)? Hmm….how exactly will it help?
You can develop skills at the rec ball level, but playing travel baseball will allow your player to compete against better players. The game will play faster and he’ll have to learn how to make it slow again. His teammates will get better and he’ll be forced to work harder to keep up. From the trenches, they will all push each other to improve. Plus, travelball players see the field more than rec players. They play many more games and usually have more practices than rec players. This game takes a ton of reps to get better but more important is the quality of those reps. This is where the pro trainers can help. You can spin your wheels with mega reps at low quality. The travel baseball environment is a great litmus test for his skill development and will expose those areas where he needs to improve before the big field cometh.
Depends. But on average, the coaching is better at the travelball level. In travelball, you typically have more coaches who have played the game in high school and beyond. They generally have a baseball IQ that is higher than the average rec ball coach and because the players are more skilled, their practices become more productive and efficient. The quality of the reps they demand from the players is better and more detailed. Travelball coaches are often friends with the local pro trainers and are in constant communication with them about their players so they can help reinforce rather than interfere. Plus you usually have more coaches on a travelball team which allows the coaches to specialize on certain things…batting coach, pitching coach, strength and conditioning, and fielding. Click here for some things to consider when choosing a travelball program.
Well, you can learn mental toughness in the recreation leagues. But the level of commitment and skill at the recreation level is fading fast. Not everybody has the same goals in rec ball either. In a travel tournament setting, travel ball players are faced with much harder challenges. It’s easy to be a teammate when things aren’t very challenging and your team is always winning. But after you’ve struck out three times and make an error in the field, can you still put the team ahead of yourself and make some sort of positive impact no matter what? Can you keep your head high, encourage your teammates, and be a leader on the field without throwing your _______ and crying on the bench?
Travelball players compete very hard to win. Not everyone is getting a trophy like rec ball. Players, unnecessarily, put pressure on themselves to win. Coaches and parents, unfairly, apply pressure to win. Successful players will find a way to perform consistently in tough situations and will carry the same approach onto the big field.
Note: Parents, we don’t need to add to the pressure they already put on themselves. If you find yourself struggling with your own attitude or want to help your player build a stronger mental approach to his game, here are a couple must reads that are on my bookshelf: You can buy these at a low price on Amazon, The Mental Game of Baseball and Whose Game Is It Anyway?
What Do YOU Want From Youth Travel Baseball?
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