The Travel Team
Why Do They Do It?

I have often been asked why we allowed our daughters to play on a travel team. All of the family time sacrifice, the added expense, the overnight hotel stays, the lost summer weekends, the nasty porta-potties and the hours upon hours of practice time.

To be honest, the questions went even beyond that. Why did you coach travel sports was another favorite. My oldest daughter started the travel craze in our house, with her deep devotion to softball at the age of 9. It seemed we spent every late Spring to mid-Summer weekend at one of the softball "garden spots" with family vacation time squeezed in after the season.

My youngest daughter followed this up with not only travel softball but added travel soccer. It seemed we were at some tournament almost every weekend for eight months out of the year. Sometimes both sports played on the same weekend. Had we totally lost our minds??

travel softball or soccer, or both?

If you are coaching a travel team, it is essential that you understand why the players and parents decided to join the team. What is in it for them? If your program doesn't either address their aspirations or correctly set expectations, you will find your team imploding on itself.

So let me start by telling you why we allowed our two girls to play on a travel team. We did it first and foremost because they had a passion for the sport. They wanted to play at a more competitive level than at the recreation league. So we took the plunge. My son had no such desire as his passion lay elsewhere, so we did not push him to play. We also figured that if they wanted to be the best, they had to play with the best. They had to learn the proper way to play the game, both from a mechanical, but more importantly, from a mental standpoint. The travel team provided this. It taught you to take the good with the bad. There were successes and trophies, but also there were the beat downs and mercy rule games. It taught them that life wasn't always fair, but you had to continue to push your self regardless.

And for all of these lost weekends, money spent on hotels, uniforms, lousy meals, and team dues, what did we expect in return? Well there was the thought of college scholarships ... but it was only fleeting. When you do enough of this, you realize you do it because your child loves it. You do it because she becomes very good at it, and you do it because you see it maturing her in all the right ways (assuming you are keeping a lid on exaggerated praise by others).

Softball batter waiting on the pitch

Why did the girls do it? Because they loved the game. They wanted to be regarded amongst the best. When my youngest eventually choose travel soccer over travel softball, it was a tough day for me personally, but I realized this is what she wanted. She continues to play high school softball, with great success, but the travel softball days are over for her.

The last word: If the only reason for playing a travel sport is because you think there is a guaranteed college scholarship in the mix, then you are misguided and the person telling you this should not be coaching. It is absolutely true that some players will earn a college scholarship. But it cannot be the sole reason because the player will lose the passion for the game. It becomes a miserable job. So keep expectations where they belong.

If you are a coach of a travel team, read the comments below from other players and parents on why they are involved with a travel team. I think the themes are similar. If you would like to add your own comments, please do so. The first five comments were submitted to me through a wonderful service called HARO (Help a Reporter). They expand on my thoughts better than for me to continue rambling. But please, take your turn and add your own thoughts (and share a picture if you like) or comments on other's submissions. A healthy dialogue around this subject is important. And it is important for all of the coaches out there to understand why parents and players subject themselves to the travel team experience.

Why Do You or Your Children Play Travel Sports?

Tell us about your experience? What keeps you coming back? Why do you keep playing? As a parent, is the money and weekends sacrificed worth it?

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What Other Visitors Have Said

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Why not play? 
It teaches all aspects of life...self discipline, comradery, perserverence, and builds character, strength, and sportsmanship and responsibility... …

Sports Mama 
For my family this is what we love. The kids love to compete and have a passion for the game. For my boys, it's has been hockey, football and baseball. …

Why I Play 
I got your request from my mother who subscribes to HARO at work. My name is Erin and I'm 15. I've played AAU basketball for 4 years. I enjoy it …

In Response to Travel Ball 
In response to travel ball: I have a son, now 15, who has played travel ball since he was 6. I've listed our reasons, but our driving force is our …

Both My Son and Daughter Play Travel  
Hello. I am Bob Bentz. Both my son (Brooks) and my daughter (Brittany) play travel baseball and softball. I was the manager of the Chester County …

Travel Fastpitch Softball for 5 Years 
My daughter is 14 and has been playing travel fastpitch softball for 5 years. At first, I was annoyed with the time and financial commitment, but it …

My son plays travel soccer and baseball and we love it!  
Hello, My son plays travel soccer and baseball and we love it! Here's why: Alex, our 9 year old is a talented athlete and we enjoy watching …

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