Don’t Play Travel Ball: Stay In The Rec League1 -- By: James M. Hamilton, Jr.
JBMW 21:1 (Spring 2016) p. 7
Don’t Play Travel Ball: Stay In The Rec League1
Professor of Biblical Theology
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
I have friends I respect whose kids have played (and some who do play) travel ball, and I mean no offense to them by this post. Nor am I categorically condemning their decisions and choices. I am offering these thoughts for parents who are considering whether to put their kids on a “competitive” team, or a “travel-ball” team, or a “tournament” team, or whatever it may be called in your sport and locale.
Don’t get me wrong: I love competition. I love excellence. And I want to provide the best competitive opportunities I can for my own kids.
I played two years of major college baseball at the University of Arkansas, and I’ve been coaching my sons in baseball and basketball for the last 7 years or so. These reflections grow out of my own experience playing and coaching and watching other families. My thoughts will be mainly applied to baseball, but I think they are valid for basketball, volleyball, soccer, lacrosse, swimming, and whatever else.
Here are 10 reasons I think you should keep your kid in the rec league rather than quitting it for travel ball. These are presented in the order in which I suspect most dads think about them, not in the order of importance I would rank them (#6 would be #1, and #4 would be #2).
1. Kids Should Play Not Work.
Growing up I loved baseball. I wanted to play all the time, until I got to college and had to do so.
JBMW 21:1 (Spring 2016) p. 8
When I walked on and made the Razorbacks, the sport I loved to play became a year-round job. A job is not a game. We practiced a lot, doing as much as the NCAA allowed, all year long, in season and out.
That’s fine for an 18 year old on the cusp of adulthood, but there’s no reason to put a 7-14 year old through that kind of rigor.
After my first year of it in college, I found that what had been so fun because I had the opportunity to look forward to it in the off season, or even on days between practice or games, began to feel like a dreaded obligation that consumed a significant portion of every day.
The daily grind not only sapped the joy of the game, it was physically punishing. My arm hurt all the time, and I wasn’t a pitcher. The journey the Lord had me on led to me being cut from the team after I did not play summer ball following my sophomore year. I had played non-stop from the summer before my freshman year, through fall ball, winter wei...
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