When I was growing up in the 1980’s, most of us played house league. By the end of the growing season, the very best players made the All Star team, which then competed against other community All Star teams in an article season tournament. Then youth organizations decided to produce teams which played a part-time travel schedule and a part-time house schedule. This later evolved into the development of full time travel teams with significant tournament schedules, sometimes requiring out of state travel and overnight lodging.
Games increased from 30-40 games per summer to 60-70 games, sometimes more. Not just did the amount of games increase, so did the number of teams. Towns and communities which once offered only 1 travel team now have several options to select from. Previously considered an honor to be selected for travel baseball teams, now anyone willing to travel on weekends and who is financially able to spend the money for registration fee can enjoy travel baseball.
The existence of various options is a major problem with travel baseball. Previously when kids didn’t make their travel team, the lesson was to work harder and check out next year. However, with multiple options currently readily available for many eager travel players, this message has been eliminated. Now, many parents shop their kids around like free agents, trying to find teams with the very best records and most trophies. Kids who were cut from solo travel women team simply tryout for another, or parents of these children who were unhappy with playing time simply form their own teams. Last time I checked, sitting on the bench and learning how to aid teammates from the sidelines is a valuable lesson that most kids should learn. No wonder we as senior school coaches are seeing more and more incoming freshman with spoiled attitudes and a solid sense of entitlement.
Naturally, the existence of multiple travel teams waters down the talent level per team. Now, most travel teams have at least three to four marginal players on the roster because the very best players in each community are disseminate over several teams. Not just does the existence of multiple travel teams water down the talent level of every team, but it addittionally waters down the number of quality coaches. Let’s face it – great coaches don’t grow on trees. And when I say great coaches, I don’t just mean coaches who know baseball (and trust me, you can find not many of those). Great coaches are those who can teach and manage the game, as well as understand the emotional and social development of kids, carry themselves with class, honor, and integrity, and teach life skills. Good luck finding multiple great coaches in one single community, not to mention one!
And while I admit there are probably just as many bad senior school coaches as you can find bad travel coaches, the actual fact of the problem is that numerous senior school coaches are either trained educators or certified by well-respected coaching organizations including the American Sport Education Program (ASEP). Furthermore, senior school coaches must be accountable to school administrators and athletic directors, as well as following various policies and guidelines as established by state senior school associations. On the other hand to this, the majority of travel league coaches don’t possess the correct training and experience to work with kids, and most don’t have to be accountable to anyone for his or her decisions, behaviors, and conduct.