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Thoughts on Travel Ball and How It Affects High School Ball

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  • Thoughts on Travel Ball and How It Affects High School Ball

    I once read an article about the effects that competitive travel baseball was having on high school baseball programs. I guess I see it as a good and bad thing. Obviously, travel ball can afford a kid plenty of quality game time experience and plenty of reps, but on the other hand, overuse and the risk of injury (especially during the Middle/High School season) is a factor. I'm not an advocate for, or against travel baseball (my son has done this for three years now), but I am curious as to what many of you think. In our case, I do think that it helped prepare my son for his middle school team. At this point, he seems much more fundamentally sound than many of the other kids that haven't been afforded the opportunity to play travel ball. Additionally, what do you think about travel teams scheduling tournaments during the school baseball schedule (weekends)? One of our local school programs will prohibit their players from doing both at the same time starting next year.

    Thanks,
    Sonny

  • #2
    Originally posted by Sonny View Post
    I once read an article about the effects that competitive travel baseball was having on high school baseball programs. I guess I see it as a good and bad thing. Obviously, travel ball can afford a kid plenty of quality game time experience and plenty of reps, but on the other hand, overuse and the risk of injury (especially during the Middle/High School season) is a factor. I'm not an advocate for, or against travel baseball (my son has done this for three years now), but I am curious as to what many of you think. In our case, I do think that it helped prepare my son for his middle school team. At this point, he seems much more fundamentally sound than many of the other kids that haven't been afforded the opportunity to play travel ball. Additionally, what do you think about travel teams scheduling tournaments during the school baseball schedule (weekends)? One of our local school programs will prohibit their players from doing both at the same time starting next year.
    I think many of the best young arms are being destroyed by travel ball (due to tournaments and pitchers pitching multiple times during a weekend or even a day).

    I think that's one reason why you see less home-grown pitching talent in the US.
    Hitting Coordinator for Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.

    I also work with the pitchers who are dealing with injury problems.

    Comment


    • #3
      It is so situational to the team and coach. I see both sides of it around here. Over use and also good management of arms. On the rec side I see an inability to teach mechanics which has a negative effect as well. Of course you see kids in travel ball with crappy mechanics as well but more in rec.

      I handled the pitching on my son's team most years when he traveled. Our league had overly-cautious rules regarding pitching but the reason they were there was to protect against jackass coaches who would push good sense. Outside the league tournaments couldn't be enforced concerning pitching rules so overuse still happens.

      Some feel that kids don't throw ENOUGH and that is why they get injured when going to HS. In some cases I'm sure that is true.

      One way to combat overuse is to develop more pitchers on your team. I know that with how games fall it is tough for teams to keep many pitchers sharp but that is why we increased the number of kids on our team from 12 to 14 (sometimes one more). We would have kids working in the bullpen on days that we couldn't get them in a game or rainouts or this and that. We found that by doing that we had more sharp pitchers available to us, kids were active during games while on the bench, etc.

      Comment


      • #4
        Who was the guy on one of these sites who said he listened to the "who needs travel ball" type advice that is often rampant on the boards.

        His kid tries out for HS and gets cut. The kids who made all played a lot of travel ball according to the dad. Their skills were more refined, etc. Anyway his story was quite contrary to the typical response see on the "internets".

        No matter what you do it's all about balance. My little one who is 10, I coached a little 10U fall USSSA team and we played maybe 10 games and didn't play tournaments. That's more than enough for him. Other kids would leave after my game and play for another travel team. Those kids can't seem to get enough baseball. So what? If my son were screaming at me "dad I want to play for a real team" I'd do it for him. We do not keep the team together during little league and all-stars.

        It's basically about what does your kid want to do. Some kids really do seem to like playing on a rec team and two travel ball teams here in SD. Mine don't, but who am I to sit back and judge.

        Also another pattern I see is some of the "anti"-travel ball dads (who's kids can never seem to hit by the way) down here are all well-connected in the local high schools. They tend to be the most intense during the Rec Ball (little league) seasons. Mainly because that is all their son is playing so they take Rec ball like it's life or death. One this year finally agreed to let his kid play travel ball and the guy has mellowed out. He actually lets other kids pitch now, and try positions because he is coming to understand, that Rec-Ball just means more At-Bats, so why get so excited?

        Comment


        • #5
          I brought this over from another thread....

          Here's what I think...

          I feel the proliferation of TB has hurt the game. 70% of children who play quit before the age of 13. One of the key reasons is it is no longer fun- they're burnt out by over-zealeous parents who feel "we have Jr.'s best interest at heart." Believe me I made the same mistakes and baseball is not like travel soccer. In travel soccer kids get tired, in travel baseball kids get hurt.. Here's what I recommend

          1. U12 - Little League or similar rec league and Fall ball. This is plenty! 25-35 Games is more than enough.

          2. 13-15 - MS/HS plus one other short season, be that Jr. League, Jr. Legion or AAU. 40-50 games.

          3. 16+ - HS and Legion ball. If Legion is not available then one short season with a TB team. 50-60 games.

          NONE should be played at the same time and I recommend a break between the two. Year round baseball is bad no matter what anyone tells you for prebubescent and pubescent players. Even the games very best take 5 months off.

          Quotes like:
          "My kid needs to play year round in order to keep his skills up."
          "If he wants to be the best he needs to hitting/throwing every day."
          "Hey this kid is special."
          "If he doesn't play 100 games he'll be left behind."
          Etc...
          Are usually more about the parents than it is the players.

          Hope this helps...
          Jake
          "He who dares to teach, must never cease to learn."
          - John Cotton Dana (1856–1929) - Offered to many by L. Olson - Iowa (Teacher)
          Please read Baseball Fever Policy and Forum FAQ before posting.

          Comment


          • #6
            you can say what you want but in travel your kid will get many more quality at bats against better pitching,that experience will never be had in a rec league..

            he WILL generally play better competition...


            in high school the coach will look at the kid with the best hitting ability, arm strength, speed and defense..and of course size..

            like the coach mentioned i dont care if you played on the mud dogs or the tad poles..

            Comment


            • #7
              I haven't seen anything close to 70% of the kids who play travel ball quit by the age of 13. If that is how it is in your area, they something is wrong in your area. I see far, FAR more kids who played rec ball quit then I did travel kids. FAR more.

              Comment


              • #8
                Jake - in a perfect world I would agree with you.

                However, the kids who play travel in my area are hands down better than 90% of the kids who play rec ball. The rosters of the varsity teams are made up of these travelball players and the top 10% of rec players.

                Just yesterday I watched a rec game of 13's. The kids literally had trouble catching the ball. It's just the way it is...........agree or disagree times have changed.
                "Tip it and rip it" - In Memory of Dmac
                "Hit the inside seam" - In Memory of Swingbuster

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by CoachHenry View Post
                  I haven't seen anything close to 70% of the kids who play travel ball quit by the age of 13. If that is how it is in your area, they something is wrong in your area. I see far, FAR more kids who played rec ball quit then I did travel kids. FAR more.
                  I agree. I've been around the current 15Us in my area since they were 9 and I keep seeing the same kids on the same teams-if not more....weird.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Stealth View Post
                    Jake - in a perfect world I would agree with you.

                    However, the kids who play travel in my area are hands down better than 90% of the kids who play rec ball. The rosters of the varsity teams are made up of these travelball players and the top 10% of rec players.

                    Just yesterday I watched a rec game of 13's. The kids literally had trouble catching the ball. It's just the way it is...........agree or disagree times have changed.
                    That is how it is on our area as well.

                    I'd also like to say that I'm a big fan of the rec system. I wish that the systems would embrace the fact that there are different layers to kid's abilities and deal with it. However they can't since the parents would scream about their kid not being on the higher level team and so forth. So, each year someone with an an all-star rec team gets an idea that they need to go traveling and off they go.
                    Last edited by CoachHenry; 04-09-2008, 11:28 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      As a HS coach, I will give you my .02.

                      First off, travel ball means nothing to me as a HS coach. I hear all the time from parents about what travel team their son has played on, how good he played on his travel team, etc., etc., etc.,. To be honest, I don't care. I am not trying to sound like I have an ego, but I don't care what they did when they were age 6-14, I only care about the future and how they fit into our program for the next 4 years.

                      We have freshman tryouts every year and I would say each year of the 22-25 we keep, 1/2 have played travel ball and 1/2 have not.

                      Here is my biggest thing with the incoming players I have seen the past few years. The kids that come in do not seem to have baseball instincts. They do not understand situations, how to play the game, etc. Bottom line, they do not appear to be getting coached on the game. The coaches that coach these teams hand pick the best kids at those levels and play games, but many don't take the time to coach, teach, and develop the kids. The kids simply get by on talent. When I was at the ABCA convention this past January, a speaker made a joke about travel and AAU coaches. He stated that in his opinion coaches that can't coach, coach AAU and travel teams. They handpick who they want, fill out the lineup cards, send them out to play, and then pumps his chest with how many wins he gets.

                      Now, these are just my observations, so other coaches may say different things. I am not saying all travel ball is bad. Some travel ball players really do understand the game and situations, etc., so I am just speaking on the whole from what I have seen.

                      Bottom line, I am ok with travel ball to a point. IMO, I think it should be either travel ball or little league not both. Take the time to practice and play, and not just play.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        My son played LL only up til age 12. Because he was affected by the age change rule, he had two 12yo years. After the first one he played a short season of travel fall ball. That was good because he got to adjust to the big field in a low stress situation. The coaching was good and laid back.

                        After his second 12yo year he played BR 13-15 and had a great time doing that. Playing on the big field with all 15 yo's but one 14yo. They made it to the league championship game where they got blown out by a very good team. Again, good experience. He found out he could keep up with older local studs, none of whom had ever played travel.

                        The next year, as an 8th grader, he played JV during the school year and then on a 13U travel team until August. Before that season the travel team had weekly practices all winter. We found those practices to be the best feature of the travel experience. He got a solid grounding in all the fundamentals and got a lot of reps.

                        The travel season itself, from my perspective, cost way too much and involved way too much travel. I don't think any of the kids' skills improved significantly during the course of the season itself. Whatever they came in with, they left with. In fact, if anything, my son's pitching skills deteriorated. He was not one of the first three pitchers (the coaches' sons) and therefore pitched irregularly. That would have been fine if there was some way for us to know when he was going to be called on. But, because we didn't know, I didn't want to work with him outside of games because I didn't want to overuse his arm. And, his hitting was not as good as it had been the previous year. Also, I think everyone concerned was burned out by the end of the season.

                        I've thought a lot about whether his relatively poor performance in travel ball was because of superior competition. It is true that he faced and played with a few kids who were very good. But it is also true that the previous year he played with and against the best 15yo's in our region as a 12yo and did very well.

                        This year he's playing JV again and it remains to be seen how that will go. Yesterday they had their first game and lost 6-5. He relieved the starting pitcher with one out in the fourth inning, four runs in and two on base. He set down the next two batters, but not before they scored another run. The top of the 5th the first batter dribbled a grounder to him and he made a routine throw to 1st. The first baseman dropped the ball. That runner advanced to third on a steal and a passed ball and scored on a sac fly. He set down the next 9 batters in order, four on K's. He turned a couple very good fielding plays at 2nd base and commited one error on a tough play.

                        So, what does that tell us. His experience yesterday was essentially a continuation of the kind of ball he played before travel. From what I observed, in general the caliber of player in travel is better than in rec leagues. But, the best travel players are no better than the best school and rec league players. He learned one big thing in travel, discipline and how to conduct himself on a well organized team.

                        I think that the only real advantage of travel ball is the possibility of having highly competent coaching. Many of the best rec and school players benefit from having fathers or local coaches who know what they're doing and work with the kids outside of regular practice. Unfortunately, the quality of local coaching is variable in the extreme. If the kids aren't being taught the basics properly, they are way behind the curve when they get to HS.

                        So, my take is that the quality of local coaching is paramount in determining how good the kids' baseball experiences are, and in the quality of players coming through the programs. I've taken it as something of a personal crusade to improve the knowledge and abilities of local coaching. Of course, I'm running up against the usual resistance to something new, but I think inroads are being made that could eventually turn this town into a regional baseball powerhouse. And, I've gotta say, it's a lot more fun for the kids playing with the kids they play with and against throughout their childhoods. More fun for the coaches and parents too.
                        Last edited by bbjunkie; 04-09-2008, 12:14 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The coaches that coach these teams hand pick the best kids at those levels and play games, but many don't take the time to coach, teach, and develop the kids.
                          That is true in some cases. Some of these teams pull kids from all over and never have time to practice.

                          There are however some very well coached teams that I have seen.
                          "Tip it and rip it" - In Memory of Dmac
                          "Hit the inside seam" - In Memory of Swingbuster

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Sonny View Post
                            I once read an article about the effects that competitive travel baseball was having on high school baseball programs. I guess I see it as a good and bad thing. Obviously, travel ball can afford a kid plenty of quality game time experience and plenty of reps, but on the other hand, overuse and the risk of injury (especially during the Middle/High School season) is a factor. I'm not an advocate for, or against travel baseball (my son has done this for three years now), but I am curious as to what many of you think. In our case, I do think that it helped prepare my son for his middle school team. At this point, he seems much more fundamentally sound than many of the other kids that haven't been afforded the opportunity to play travel ball. Additionally, what do you think about travel teams scheduling tournaments during the school baseball schedule (weekends)? One of our local school programs will prohibit their players from doing both at the same time starting next year.

                            Thanks,
                            Sonny
                            CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) prohibits play or practice by any varsity player in any outside league during the official sport season (I believe there are waivers for Team USA). This is does not apply to JV or Frosh ball, but would render them unavailable for call up to the varsity squad. During the regular season, a freshman, JV and varsity has baseball 5-6 days a week including 2-4 games a week. I don't know how to fit in anymore baseball into my son's schedule without risking a breakdown physically and even perhaps wear him out on the sport. Now my son will be going to the Junior Olympics with his travel team and will miss 10 days of summer high school ball.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              i agree. The city league around here is a joke. The travel ball is great as long as the kids arent pushed too hard. WE take 1 weekend off per month. We dont play in the fall or winter. So they do baseball from march(practice only) to middle of july. Tourneys from april-july..

                              Most of the kids are sad it is over and all of them cant wait for it to start. I do watch my pitchers closely. that is why every kid on my team pitches. Some more than others but not by a large margin and none of them pitch the maximum allowed

                              Originally posted by wogdoggy View Post
                              you can say what you want but in travel your kid will get many more quality at bats against better pitching,that experience will never be had in a rec league..

                              he WILL generally play better competition...


                              in high school the coach will look at the kid with the best hitting ability, arm strength, speed and defense..and of course size..

                              like the coach mentioned i dont care if you played on the mud dogs or the tad poles..

                              Comment

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