Last week, a friend and I were having lunch and he was lamenting the cost of signing his kid up for the tackle football league in his area.  Then he tells me that they not only have a rec league for football, but a travel league football team for the area.

This for fourth graders!?

This travel team travels all over the state playing other fourth grade travel football teams.  Now he is contemplating whether to do the rec or the travel football.

But, it isn’t like this just for football.  Oh no, every sport now is like that.  Making these fourth graders (or younger) play seasons in their sport year round.  I don’t think that is right, but I don’t think it is going back to the way it was.

Nowadays, there is almost a tier system when it comes to playing sports.  If you are playing travel ball, you are part of an elite team of athletes.  If you are playing rec, you aren’t.

When I was younger, the rec league was all you had.  All the great athletes played in this league and at the end of the season, they might choose an all-star team that might play a few other all-star teams.  You had great competition and it made you a better athlete.

That is not the case anymore.

Now all the best athletes seem to be playing travel sports.  Leaving the rec leagues to have the cast-offs who did not make a team.  I’m not saying all rec league players could not make travel teams.  Obviously there are some players that could.  But, I do think the overall talent and coaching is different than travel teams.  Makes you wonder how your athlete is developing while playing in these rec leagues.

In fact, my friend was telling me that his son’s rec league baseball coaches were also soccer coaches on a travel team.  They’ve had to forfeit a couple baseball games and reschedule numerous games because the coaches chose to be at the soccer games due to the relative importance of it being “travel”.  Plus, half the team plays travel soccer and that trumps the rec baseball.

Wasn’t soccer a fall sport??

Not anymore.  The spring season is just as important, if not more, than the fall season if you ask the soccer aficionados.  I have a fifth grade client who runs track and had the chance to win three events at his league meet.  He was unable to get that chance because he had to go to a “big” soccer tournament for his travel team.

I’m sorry was there money on the line?  The World Cup trophy?  Were there college coaches in attendance for this fifth grade soccer tourney?  These travel soccer teams make you feel like you’re letting the whole team down if you don’t attend every single function.  Or you are losing out on an opportunity to better yourself as a soccer player by missing one weekend of soccer.

I don’t know how he did in the soccer tournament, but I know he missed out on defending his title in the 100M dash.  I know that some other kid is wearing the first place medal around his neck that he had a good chance of winning.  So I guess that is what bugs me about this whole travel thing.

Don’t get me started on the alleged “politics” of the travel team system.  Plus, if you are paying all this money to play travel ball, then I would expect you have decent coaches who will improve my athlete throughout the season.  Not always the case.

I can complain about it all I want, but it isn’t going away anytime soon.  Which I guess I’m fine with that.  Gives me more of an opportunity to develop an athlete for a sport he/she might love.  I just didn’t know that athlete had to figure that out by 10 years old.