Travel or Rec Ball

Well, it is that time of year again.  Tryouts for the rec season are just around the corner.  I can honestly say I did not think I would be saying these words for at least a year or two, but here they are.  This year Lefty did not sign up for the local rec league and he will be playing travel ball instead.  This was a big decision for Lefty and TheRustyArm family.  The previous two seasons we have split our time between rec and travel.  I have spent the last four seasons coaching in rec ball which I have enjoyed immensely.  But this season, Lefty will be playing for his travel team and I have been fortunate enough to be able to assist the team as…you guessed it…The RustyArmBatting Practice Pitching Assistant Coach.  Yes!  Break out the ice for the arm!
I know some of you are facing the same question as we did, to stay with rec or try a travel team?  We made the decision not because we did not or do not enjoy the rec league.  I think rec baseball is a great experience.  We made the decision to sit out this year because it was the right decision for Lefty.  Most of Lefty’s 10U travel teammates have made the same decision to skip the rec season and continue practicing and playing games together.  Staying together as a team and practicing together was a major factor in our decision.  Most of those All-Star teams you see come out of the rec leagues are playing together on travel teams throughout the year.  They are not a team just banned together at the end of their season, they usually are a team that have played together for years.  Also, with the team not playing rec, we could practice often and play often.  Lastly, I do like the competition level we see in travel tournaments.  Yes, travel ball is not solely elite players these days, however, most elite players I know play travel ball.  I want Lefty to compete against those players.  I do not in any way believe that this is the only decision or the right decision for all young ball players, it was the right decision for Lefty. We may return to rec, we will take it season by season.  For now, we will attack travel ball and enjoy the journey.  And I will let you know how many kids are hit by pitch in batting practice…sorry youngsters.
I came across this perspective on Clarkstown Baseball Association in New York.  The Clarkstown Baseball Association Stars started in 1997 and the Stars are recognized as one of the premier baseball organizations in the tri-state area.  Keep in mind this is from a travel program perspective. But they do make some good points.  I don’t know if I believe 100% of this article, but I think it offers a good perspective.
No matter where your young player plays, most important thing is…to play.  Here is to a great season for you and your player!
Travel Baseball is considered by its design as a higher level of competition, compared to what your traditional, recreational leagues provide. There are several factors which make these two situations very different from one another. Ideally, coaches would like for parents and players to have a clear understanding of their differences, prior to deciding which of these forums is best suited for them (as a family). As you read further, we will try to share some of the issues we encounter as players, parents or coaches; regarding the different elements that make up “recreational” and “competitive” sports…in this case, baseball. The views expressed here serve only as a tool of reference and not necessarily as the only point of view on all there is to know about “Travel Baseball”.At the beginning…
Most adults are familiar with the simpler days of the past, when everyone went to their local Little League and signed up their…”Little Johnny”, for the upcoming season. A few days after registration, “Little Johnny”, nervously awaits the first call from his coach, letting him know the name of the team that eventually selected him. “Little Johnny” was very happy in anticipation for his new uniform and what it would look like. Soon after he would go on to his first practice and finally meet his new teammates. Unbeknown to “Little Johnny”, the entire process, (under a recreational environment), is designed to create equal participation and to eliminate as many chances for failure or disappointment as possible. In essence, Johnny is going to play regardless, since Mom or Dad have already paid his registration fee.
A New Choice…
Nowadays, a new opportunity exists which wasn’t available, not so long ago! “Travel Baseball”, has now become an attractive idea that has taken almost a “prestigious” entity! Just think…you so often now hear proud parents at the water cooler having discussions about their “Little Johnny”, who is now a travel ball player…they proudly discuss it as if it’s a private membership club!Here’s the catch, however…Within the “Travel Ball” environment, Johnny is no longer sheltered from the possibility of failure or lack of participation! One of the lessons parents learn when they’re first exposed to this competitive baseball concept, is that there’s a chance that their baby’s ego may be crushed…How so?…he’s never had to be evaluated against his own peers before, or even compete for something at such a young age…until now!The Reality…
All of us as parents want what’s best for our children. We don’t ever want to see our children fail or experience disappointment! Baseball…as we all know, is supposed to be a fun sport!When it comes to “Travel Baseball”, here’s the tough part…Now that we actually have a choice to make between selecting a recreational forum or opt for a competitive one, many parents and players still choose to be drawn to the “prestige” of being part of the “travel ball” concept! The problem usually begins when parents and players are first exposed to real competition! At first, they find it difficult to part with the “conditioning” of conveniently designed safety nets, that are applied inside “recreational” rules. The transition from recreational participation into a competitive environment becomes the initial hurdle. The next hurdle is the discovery that “Travel Ball” becomes an entire “family” commitment and that they soon lose the “complaisant” luxury they once enjoyed in the past! (Many postponed BBQ’s, pool parties or cancelled weekend trips to Grandma’s house). To be part of a “Travel Ball” concept and be successful at it, families now find the need to dedicate more time to baseball clinics, private lessons or to acquire new training methods for their athletes.

The Way It really Works…
Most Travel Team coaches recruit their players from local Little League parks, tryouts, newspaper adds or word of mouth. Chances are if the coach has a team near a Little league program, he already knows who the better players are…Many of these coaches have prior experience either as former players, volunteer time at the same recreational league as coaches or as baseball instructors. When they hold tryouts, they usually have a keen sense for spotting potential players or players who display immediate talent. Not only do the coaches possess a higher level of training suitable for competitive baseball, but in addition, many of the parents involved are familiar with the responsibility and dedication required to expose their own children in this competitive field! Many of the successful families who make the commitment to take part in Travel Baseball, also know that a child cannot simply show up for a team practice and be expected to excel or improve within the one-two hour practice held by his team coach. Players and parents find additional ways to stay sharp by seeking a private instructor, visit the batting cages regularly, attend baseball camps or clinics or design rigid baseball drills of their own, until they meet once again with the team coach.

The Nature of the Beast!
“If you think this is a bit too much, rest assured there’s somebody else out there who thinks that he hasn’t done enough! The funny part is that he’s probably standing right next to you!”

Read the complete article here.



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