When travel league schedules revolve around tournament play, winning inherently becomes the primary focus. Rarely do these teams have time to practice due to the heightened amount of travel and games. This is a glaring problem with travel baseball, as kids need a combination of practice and games to best facilitate athletic development. Simply throwing young kids out on the field to play as many games as possible does not necessarily facilitate athletic development, as younger athletes need considerable practice time to develop their hitting and defensive skills in a pressure free environment.
Basically, what travel baseball has done is put 8-11 year olds in an adult created setting where the pressure to win and perform takes precedent over the emotional and athletic development of the players themselves.
A bi-product of this reality is the coaches themselves acting as if they were managing professional players – the yelling, the throwing of equipment, the arguing with umpires, the sulking after losses. And while it may appear that these travel coaches know what they are doing with their custom made dry-fit coaching shirts and Oakley Sunglasses resting on the brims of their fitted caps, the fact of the matter is that most of travel coaches possess the same amount of knowledge as your average house league coach. In fact, the majority of travel players are being coached by parents who don’t know the first thing about baseball or the social and emotional development of kids. Many of these parent coaches cannot even properly parent their own kids!
Rather than winning, the focus for youth baseball needs to be on development. After all, once these kids hit puberty, it is really not going to matter which travel team your son played on and how many tournaments they won. Athletic excellence and success cannot always be identified at an early age, and inferior athletes will frequently blossom and attain success in later years given the right opportunity to compete and develop their skills. Consistent practice time is a critical component to this development.
Though some may disagree with several of the statements in this narrative, understand that my goal is to report in an honest and straightforward manner what I know to be true from my many experiences working with youth baseball players. I have no hidden agenda. The well-being of kids is always my top priority, hence the reason why I created this article.