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Thoughts on Travel Ball and How It Affects High School Ball

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  • Ursa Major
    replied
    Thoughts on Travel Ball and How It Affects High School Ball

    I repeated the thread's title, because folks have digressed and are talking about the effect of travel ball on individual kids, rather than on the HS game in general. TG Coach by contrast has made the salient point that baseball -- like a lot of HS-aged sports (like girls' soccer, for example) is becoming skewed by the desire of many coaches to have a few tournaments or showcases at which they can evaluate kids rather than having to travel around to multiple HS games (which is difficult to do given the tight scheduling of college games). So the incentive for kids to bolt from their HS teams is increasing. This exacerbates the lack of attractiveness of HS games for coaches, so kids who are late bloomers or can't afford travel ball don't get much exposure.

    But, we shouldn't jump to conclusions that -- for an individual player -- playing on a travel ball team will automatically improve them more than playing on a HS or other youth (e.g., rec) team. Often, the top kids on travel teams are obsessed about baseball and improving at it and would be good players even without being on that squad -- they just want to play more games and to have a chance to be up against top competition. Maybe they've just bought into Daddy's obsession, but I rarely see kids in top flight travel ball who don't want to be there. If they'd really rather be playing the oboe, they'll have found a way to dig their heels in. And rec players can go find top level instruction on the side (even from the travel ball coaches whose teams they decide not to join) -- as Encinitas points out, ". . . you can still buy lessons from these guys."

    Still, I think there may be an ultimate emotional cost. While the baseball success in some kids helps build their self-esteem, the bolting of rec ball for travel ball may sever them from the kids who live and go to school in their area and whom they learned the game with. And when they flame out -- as almost all will -- they can get to the "know what do I do?" stage. Or, to cling to some glory, they end up going to a Division II school that wants them even though their academics would get them into a Division 1 caliber school.

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  • Jake Patterson
    replied
    Originally posted by Baseball gLove View Post
    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).
    CT is the same.

    Leave a comment:


  • Jake Patterson
    replied
    Originally posted by BallCoach06 View Post
    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.
    As a former HS coach I couldn't agree more.

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  • hawkiirock
    replied
    yeah i would say that the HS coaches post is wrong more times than right wrt to travel ball here.. The teams we play know what to do with the ball. They know different bunt defenses. They back up throws. They have plays for first and 3rd.
    really can think of very few travel teams that would fit the HS coaches description
    Originally posted by Stealth View Post
    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.

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  • Encinitas
    replied
    Now if I were still living in Ohio I might not have signed the kids up for Travel Ball. However here in sunny SD you can play year around, and not have to go very far. I think my farthest trip was about 45 minutes.

    Now when we first moved here and played on one of the "Elite" 8u teams our coach was pressuring me to take my son to Vegas. I told him look I'll be damned if I am dragging my 9 year old to Colorado Springs for a baseball tournament. "but we are nationally ranked"
    "but we won an LA tournament so we are invited to all the big ones now".

    Big deal. So we stopped playing and about half the dads were right there with me. Once we saw how cheap USSSA was, it was a no-brainer. No more $150/month plus splitting tournament fees, gas, etc. $150-$200 per player for the whole season. You want to pay $200/month to be on joe-blow HS Superstar/Low-A Ball dropout coach's team be my guest. As I told people you can still buy lessons from these guys.

    Oh by the way, before I hear the daddy-ball cries, I was often asked by some of the parents to pitch my own kid more often (they obviously thought more of his pitching than I did) There is a flip side to not playing daddy-ball. My older son was on a team where we had "real coaches" who played up to high A or AA ball. Pitching decisions each week seemed odd to me, until I realized many of the kids were paying $60/hour for lessons on the side. How is that an improvement from daddy-ball? I have asked the parents if we want to keep up with our format or bring in a real coach and none of them want to change.

    To me the sport is quickly becoming an upper-class game of privilege with the equivalent of tennis parents with little athletic ability but big mouths sticking their noses in everyone's business.

    What's really aggravating around here now, is having to be on the right "feeder" teams in 8th grade (at a hefty cost of course) so that all the varsity coaches can see your kid. I feel sorry for a lot of these parents paying $2-$300 every month to be on the right travel team, plus playing on the 8th grade feeder team, etc.

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  • TG Coach
    replied
    One other note. By high school age, high school sports are moving towards being irrelevant in terms of being recruited for college. The college prospects are playing for well coached travel teams with contacts. The teams play in showcases and other major tournaments. The new NCAA rules on recruiting are cutting back college recruiting window. The college coaches can see many prospects in one weekend at the right tournament rather than seeing prospects one at a time at a high school game.

    Leave a comment:


  • TG Coach
    replied
    Originally posted by BallCoach06 View Post
    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.
    It depends on the goals and objectives of the team. Our travel teams coaching staff is all former college and/or pro players. Our focus is training and development. When combined with the talent of the players, the team wins a lot. Last fall we played up a year or two in every tournament to challenge the players. They still played .500 ball because they could play the game right.

    There are travel coached accumulating talent that don't know what they're doing. They disappear by 16U when there aren't any more early bloomers to recruit. The kids are now competing for high school varsity roster spots with hopes of a college future. The kids and the parents recognize these coaches can't help get them there and leave the team.

    When we get to a tournament and I see a team holding a runner on third like a first baseman I think, "Are we going to put one on this team." Even if they're big and strong our kids will overtake them by being fundamentally sound and confuse the other team with aggressive play.

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  • TG Coach
    replied
    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.
    70% is the standard number of kids who quit playing baseball at age thirteen across the board, regardless of where they're playing. This number was around before the proliferation of travel ball.

    Leave a comment:


  • TG Coach
    replied
    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
    Three freshmen at our high school are starting on the JV team rather then being in the freshman team. What do they have in common? They played USSSA Majors at 13U and 14U. The speed of the high school game is not over their head. They will start on varsity next year. Two of the three may get called up before this season is over.

    The two hitters saw 80+ every Sunday in elimination travel games in 13U and 14U. They saw breaking pitches frequently. They played in pressure situations. They played the game at a fast speed. One kid only pitches. One of the other kids pitches. What did they gain in travel? They faced loaded lineups every time they pitched. It was never an easy lineup with two or three tough hitters to get by.

    The downside of travel is if a team doesn't have a deep, quality pitching staff and burns up pitchers to win. Also, I don't believe kids need to be playing 75-100 travel games in their preteens. I don't believe whether a kid plays 46/60 or 50/70 in his preteens makes any difference at all in middle school. It's still a change in field size. The kids who haven't played open bases but are talented, pick up the new (to them) part of the game quickly.

    Last year (8th grade and 14U) my son played on a travel team that started it's season concurrently with the middle school season. Most of the kids on the team didn't have middle school ball. My son didn't pitch for the travel team until his school season was over.

    In 7th grade/13U we had a team full of pitchers playing middle school ball for an overlap of two tournaments. I communicated with the various coaches to make sure they had priority use and I didn't pitch the kids too much.

    Leave a comment:


  • hawkiirock
    replied
    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..

    Leave a comment:


  • Baseball gLove
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Stealth
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • bbjunkie
    replied
    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, 11:14 AM.

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  • BallCoach06
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • CoachHenry
    replied
    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, 10:28 AM.

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