The Cost of Travel Ball and Early Specialization

This last week, all of our high school coaches received a message from CIF- Southern Section Commissioner of Athletics, Rob Wigod. This message is also posted on the CIF-SS web site.  Rob talks about the effect that elite travel ball/club ball and early specialization has had on high school sports.  This of course, goes along with the early recruiting epidemic that we have talked about on Kidz n Sports.

PARENTS:  I think you should pay attention to Rob’s message.  There are many “costs” of playing travel/club ball.  It is not just the fees you pay the team.  Nor is it just the money spent on private lessons or the expenses of traveling such as food and hotels.  There is a cost of time, a cost of your son or daughter sacrificing a good portion of their social life during their high school years.  And with all of the promises and opportunities of travel ball the results are still the same.  There are a very limited number of scholarships given out.  According to the NCAA web site the percentage of high school seniors that actually receive an athletic scholarship is only a few percent.

I am not against travel or club ball.  I think that travel ball can be a good experience even if you don’t get that scholarship.  My daughter played travel ball for about six or seven years.  She probably could have gotten a scholarship but at that time she didn’t want to go out of California, which limited her opportunity greatly.  But she wanted to play softball.  (Now she lives out of state….go figure).  We didn’t spend as much as many people do.  The teams we were on didn’t charge an arm and a leg.

I also think that the high school experience is being changed, and not necessarily for the better.  I’ve always said there is a different “pride” of winning a national title with your travel or club team and of winning a local or state title for your high school.  When you go back for your ten year reunion, your high school teammates can share the stories of your time together.  Ten years from now, your travel team may or may not still be there.  I see one team that we play against in our league where parents take their kids there when they should be at our school.  Then they are complaining to the coaches about playing time.  The high school experience is about sharing life, just like the band, or ASB, or any club you are part of.   It’s not always about just winning.  Parents, if you are having your children transfer two or three times during their four years what experience will they remember?  I still remember the bus trips with our cross country team chanting “We are the Lions, Mighty Mighty Lions, Everywhere We Go, People Want to Know Who We Are, So We Tell ’em”….  The trips after a race were often as fun or more so than running in the race.

So before you enter your child into high school, or before you put in for that next transfer because the coach didn’t put your son or daughter in the position you thought they should play or given them the playing time you think they should have received, I encourage you to read Rob’s letter.  I challenge you to go online and look at the NCAA stats.  Do a Google Search on early recruiting and athletic scholarships.  Talk to several parents: not just the one who’s kid received a scholarship, but to the others who didn’t.

And make sure your child’s youth sports experience is their experience first, not just yours.

Commissioner’s Message 6 – December 15, 2015

 

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