22 Jul Choosing for Right Travel Baseball Team Involves Many Factors
If you have a child playing baseball at presents you no question know about the explosive growth of so-called “independent” or “AAU” travel teams and leagues. Travel ball could be a fulfilling experience for your child and for the entire family, but selecting the right travel baseball team involves many issues.
Look at the travel team’s mission. I really support independent baseball if the team’s mission is to offer athletes an environment where to develop the skills they will need to play at the high school and college level. Too often, I have seen teams whose primary target is to win trophies, games and titles. Because they are not dedicated to developing a system and program with long-term goals, players and parents become such and disillusioned teams end up quickly disbanding.On deck batter
The best teams have written mission statements which reveal that the team is committed to training and player development; offer clear rules codes of conduct for parents and players; and establish practice and game expectations for players and coaches. Select a team that is committed to educating the whole child in athletics, including athletic values, nutrition, athleticism, and leadership skills.
Look for a team that actually delivers on that commitment In my 25 years of coaching, I have found that while most teams great at talking the talk about these values at the beginning of the season, very, very few walk the walk by delivering on its promises during the season.
Who will definitely be coaching your child? Many independent teams now employ excellent coaches who are not dads of team players. Good travel teams have multiple talented, informed, and compassionate coaches. Head coaches must act as CEO’s not committee chairmen. Vision, drive and the pursuit of excellence are definitely required characteristics. It has been my direct experience that a number of the most innovative teaching coaches today choose to coach travel teams. Many prefer this environment to coaching in the school system. Players Who are the players? Most teams are composed of and are created with friends or local all-star teams who would like to play at a higher level of competition. That is why many do not have tryouts. They send invitations. 25 % of all players are not in the 99th percentile. Half of some towns’ all-starteams can’t get approved for elite playing status. Be very clear as to the actual talent standard that teams use.
How many players on the team? I strongly believe that travel teams carry too few players on the roster.
Take into consideration the commitment of time that will be required, both yours and your child’s. Independent teams need total parent participation. A parent “not involved” or not joining some way on the team is usually unacceptable.
Ask yourself and your family whether you can handle the fatigue that constant weekend travel, late weekday nights and the extra demands on your time are likely to cause your family.
If you are thinking about setting up an independent team be prepared to make a time commitment ready or more demanding than that required by a serious part-time job.
Think about the expenditure, which can range from as little as $500 to as much as $6,000 per year, not including travel expenses for motels, food, gas and tolls. Weigh that total cost versus the value of the experience and training. The more involvement costs the more you should expect the program to deliver. The primary reason a lot of independent teams fold is that they don’t represent good value. Families fast (maybe too quick) to vote with their feet these days.
Ask if it might make more sense (and cost fewer cents) for your child to continue playing in a “house” or local program but supplement his training with private instruction.
I wish to see fewer teams with more players that have the organizational and financial stability to last longer.
A deficit of players on the roster in a 60+ game schedule can produce mental and physical fatigue. Tired arms, inadequate pitching depth, family conflicts and vacations, boredom and the lack of the necessary commitment can put a team in a bad scenario if it will have to play 8 games in four days in July. A team of 10 or 11 fatigued competitors on the road is not pleasant. College teams who play 50-60 game schedules have 28-35 players.
Too much, too soon
Preserve your child’s health. Most players 10-11 years old have no concept of the physical stamina and conditioning that is required to play at an elite level. As we consistently observe combining house and travel team schedules can be and has been dangerous to a child’s health.
Various towns are making Sunday leagues. Beware. Pitchers’ throwing schedules should not be based on the ability to play in two different leagues with different rules for innings pitched. The pitcher’s total weekly pitch rest, count and strength conditioning between appearances are the sole considerations for play.
Showcase Teams/Exposure Camps
Many young age-group teams are formed to showcase individual talent. This only matters for sophomores and juniors in high school that wish to play college ball. PERIOD.
College showcase teams fall under two categories, non-profit and for-profit. Good consumer practices should be complied with. The most reliable policy is to find several referrals from last year’s team parents.
Exposure camps also might be tricky. Ask what universities were spoken for at last year’s event. If they refuse to tell you, pass it by. It is a waste of money, time, and precious energy to attend a camp if the schools your child is interested in attending will not be represented.