So little Joey loves baseball, Dad loves baseball, and so does Mom! Little Joey is very good at baseball and his best friend has just left the recreational park league and is going big time to play travel ball and you are asked if he wants to play or try out for the new team. Oh it sounds fun and exciting, seeing your son play with all the best and watching him excel and get truly closer to the dream of playing in the Bigs! But before you contact The Atlanta Braves about Joey here are a few things to consider, before you make that giant step.
The first and foremost is cost! Travel ball can cost a lot of money. I know in the beginning everyone one looks at the bottom line that says $1,000 to 2,000 dollars, for the season and it might not sound so bad, and for some it may not be. However, some programs charge $3,000 to $4,000 for professionally coached teams and that is only the beginning. On top of the set cost you will also want to do lessons with a trainer or coach of the team that will run 20-40 dollars for 30 minutes which should also be factored into the bottom line. Most tournaments require admission gate fees which can easily add up to $200 to $300 dollars per season for a family. On top of that you can plan on eating at the park or out at some type of restaurant all spring, and if your child has siblings the constant asking for candy at the concession stand or a snow cone from Kohona Ice is non-stop! So you have made it to the end of the season and its time for the championship tournament - Yeah! But, before your get all excited that tournament will most likely be played out of town. While this can be fun spending a week away playing baseball at a nearby beach, the money that you spent on that nice condo may be wasted a little due to the fact you are spending half the time at the park instead of the beach!
Will he make It?? I know, we live and learn and if your son does not make a team, its character building right? It's really not that cut and dry! First, depending upon the age, the child should never get their hopes up so high that there is too much of a negative feeling about not making a team! I have seen very young children develop insecure characteristics from being cut or not making a team, and in the same regards, I have seen lesser talented children wait and tryout a few years later down the line and look more natural because they were playing more relaxed and loose. If little Joey knows that the team is amazing and it would be a leap of faith for him to make it then, there is no loss in the matter, but if he feels his friends are on the team and he is as good, this will cause unneeded disappointment at a young age. In fact it may not have any thing to do with the child's play, but rather the direction on the team, or the coaches personal preferences being given. It could even boil down to if they need a particular player type. Whichever reason, the up-most of care should be taken when giving an explanation to a young child.
Another consideration is the time commitment. Travel baseball means just that, travel time! Little Joey's practice field may have been moved to 20-40 minutes further away, and I know that's not that big of a deal for some, but if you add it up, the travel and time spent to and fro 3 times a week can be quite a bit, oh and don't forget to factor time in for dinner! But wait, let's not forget about the siblings! They are either at their own practice or are stuck sitting thru yet another baseball practice. Also you have to consider that most of your tournaments will not be close to home often 1-2 hours away and your child you will almost always be playing double headers or more. If your teams wins on Sunday and keeps playing ,while exciting and joyful as this seems, it could be easily a 10 hour day at the park and you still have to factor in drive time home, with the 6:00 am wake up call waiting for you on Monday morning. Furthermore, If you and your child consider doing this year round, lots of programs start back up in the fall for a short season and then starts a winter workout program! Now I'm not sure about your children, but ours are always playing different sports and there is always some type of conflict that is involved in the fall or winter with overlapping baseball practices and other activities.
Have I scared you off yet? Awesome! I'm glad your still reading because I have some advice that we have learned that I would like to share!
Get Some Lessons! First, before you commit to a costly year of travel ball I would start with a few lessons. There are a lot of very good baseball instructors that have played the game and really know how to teach. They will show your child first hand what to do in a patient caring manner, without 10 other boys waiting for the same identical instruction. The child will enjoy the one on one attention and often be impressed that an ex-professional or college level player is giving him personal lessons! This of course, will lead to little Joey loving and respecting the game even more. More over, these guys are true professionals and do this as a living, I know some of the fathers can be good coaches but when it comes to true improvements fundamentally, you want to trust an experienced instructor that really knows the game. The cost is always a fraction of travel ball and some even let you split time with a friend or two!
Play Fall Ball! Today, parks have been receptive to the popularity of baseball and many offer fall baseball leagues. This a low cost and low maintenance way to get the extra time in on the field without the excessive cost and travel. If your child plays other sports they are usually pretty understanding that football or something else may come first, not mention, its such a surreal feeling being under the fall lights playing baseball as the weather cools and the leaves change colors! It also occurs at the same time as the world series and makes the whole season a little more fun!
Try A Baseball App! There are a lot of really great application to help your son or daughter improve, one in particular is called "Coaches Eye". This was recently recommend to me by an ex-professional, its very useful as well and is only $4.99! What you do is simply take a video of your athlete hitting or throwing and upload it to your device of choice, then upload a video of someone doing the same motion in the desired correct manner. The application will let you see both video's side by side so you can compare! There also are many other apps out there and of coarse countless free lessons on YouTube!
But if that still is not enough and Little Joey and Joey's parents are ready to make the leap, then at least you did not go in blindly! I love the game of baseball with all my heart and believe there is as much character to be learned from the game as there is skill, in Rec Leagues as well as Travel Ball. I hope this article helps you and I wish you the best of luck with your young athlete and hope they learn the right way by the right people!