The abridged guide to the world of select/travel/club youth sports teams

I touched on this briefly in my last blog post regarding Little League and the tournament/All-Star portion of the schedule (thank you for reading by the way!!!) and that’s the select or travel team concept when it comes to youth sports. When it was apparent that the baseball league my son was in wasn’t going to be a good fit going forward, we dove into the world of club/select/travel teams. Fortunately I had a friend who really helped me sort through everything but in case you don’t have one of those here’s sort of a guide of what you’re going to get and what to look for when looking at these types of teams for your child.

Look at your schedule – Most of the time these teams practice more and play more games than the league your child is in now and missing practice or games isn’t looked upon very favorably. Plus, with the amount of money invested in some of these teams it doesn’t make sense to miss a lot of practices/games. If you can’t make it happen because of schedule conflicts it doesn’t matter, go no further with this.

Ask your child what they would like to do – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen parents or guardians shove their kid down the select/travel team path and come to find out all he or she wanted to do was play with their friends in the rec league they are in. If they don’t want to do it, then they shouldn’t do it period…no matter how skilled they are.

Get an accurate assessment of your child’s ability – The one thing in common with select/travel ball teams is the level of play is a step up from the rec level.  But for the sake of your child you need to make sure his or her ability matches up – sending them down this path when they aren’t ready could really damage their confidence, growth in the sport and in some cases cause them to stop the activity altogether.

Do your homework – Find someone that you trust that has knowledge in this area and ask them. Or lot of these teams have websites too you can take a look at as well. Where do these teams practice/play? Is this team part of a program where there are several different teams? Even better, find out when teams you’re interested in are playing and catch a bit of their games or matches. Watch how the coaches conduct themselves – I know coaches are a lot different in game situations than they are in a tryout setting. Watch the parents and how they act and watch the players too.

Trying out – Almost all of these teams have tryout dates… find out the when and the where. Prepare your young athlete for the tryout, and be sure to tell your young athlete that not only are you trying out for their team, but their coaches and players are trying out for you too. Some programs or teams really frown on this, but I am a firm believer in attending these tryouts as a parent, one, because you need to evaluate everything as well and two, I’m not real keen on the idea of leaving my child with people I’ve never met before.

Prepare your child – The unfortunate aspect of these select/travel teams is your child may not be what they are looking for. On the car ride home not only ask them how they think things went but also remind them that due to a number of things they might not want you to be a part of their team. The “select” is the key word here.

Money – The main drawback to these select or travel teams are the fee to play…I have heard of teams charging up to $2,500. The good thing about select/travel teams is you get to pick your uniforms, gear, equipment, where you are going to play etc. but all of that costs $$$. Find out about fundraising and what each player’s responsibility is and if you have the time offer up your services to help. In my experience with travel teams there never can be enough people working on fundraising.

This isn’t _____ league anymore Toto – Again, there will be more practices, more games, a higher level of play and everything is going to be more intense. Most of all the players will be better… your child may sit out a lot more than he or you are used to. Everyone on the team was usually one of the top two or three players on their rec league teams and not all parents are good with the fact that they aren’t the best on the team anymore.

Keep things in perspective – The team that he or she plays for is a very, very small part of their lives. Family should still be number one, school should be number two and at the most team should be number three. Also, just because your child is better than most in a given sport and playing on this team doesn’t mean they are better in life nor are you the best parents/guardians on Earth.

Don’t burn your bridges!!! – You may have done all of the research and found a great team to play on but something might not come up until the middle or the end of the season and all of the sudden you realize the grass wasn’t greener on the other side. Perhaps that rec league or one of those teams your child tried out for and didn’t want to be on seemed so bad after all.

Unfortunately for us we didn’t do all of these steps but we found a wonderful team to play on that’s a great fit for both us and our child. He’s having fun, learning a lot, making new friends and learning what it means to be a part of a team and a teammate. And even if he doesn’t play another minute those are skills he can transfer to wherever his life takes him, which is the most important thing.


Paul Williams

I am a sports nut who has tried to make the transition from athlete to athletic....err....supporter of my two children and their athletic endeavours. I am also a former sports reporter for The Arlington Times, Marysville Globe, The Skagit Argus and The Coeur d'Alene Press. Follow me on Facebook or on Twitter (@PDub4170).

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