Youth Sports

December/31/2013 5:27AM
10 interesting comments, join the discussion
Please follow and like us:

A new economy has sprung up in past few years, youth sports. Here’s what a coach says about it.

Dan Colucci · Works at Lake Park High School

It’s about time this topic is addressed. I have coached high school baseball since 1995 and have been a varsity head coach since 1999.  I have witnessed the “showcase”/”elite travel” phenomenon develop over the years into something that I believe is out of control.  Too many parents have bought in and have spent too much money trying to obtain an athletic scholarship. People need to realize that athletic scholarships aren’t easy to obtain. Only a small number of athletes can be considered elite. However the showcases and academies must pay the bills so they pump parents and players up with hopes and dreams of the college scholarship. They need numbers. Not all kids are travel caliber. Players are being exposed in the showcases instead of getting exposure. Most kids should play in their local travel league, commit to their high school program, work hard on their skills, get great grades, be a great person. Families would be better off putting the $5000 that they would be spend per year on “elite” travel teams, travel expenses, and exposure camps into a 529 plan.  There’s your scholarship!  It’s guaranteed, can appreciate in value, and it’s also tax free!
The Daily Herald ran an article about this on 11-2-13. The article focused on a family in Batavia, IL, the Coffey family. The father, a pastor at a Baptist church, is the father of four sons. Dad says he has been to upwards of 360 travel baseball games between the four boys.
Here’s what Mr. Coffey says about all this, ” Most of what a child can become as an athlete was there at birth-natural talent. Then there must be passion. All of the rest you might pay for makes up about 5 percent of an athlete’s development–that’s just my opinion.”
Here’s another coach’s opinion. Rick Cullen, also a father of four and a coach, says, “There is no way that a kid  that is playing 80 baseball games a year at age 12 is going to enjoy the game very much by the time he’s in high school.”
“We have also learned that travel sports can have a way of dominating your life. We have had to struggle to retain balance in summers. We have had to learn to say no to some tournament opportunities and to some travel opportunities. We have had to tell coaches that our boys would miss games occasionally to be involved in church or family events. “
“there are plenty of other great things for kids to be involved with as they grow up:, church events, mission trips, music, art, robotics–and kids who have multiple interests should be allowed to pursue those right along with sports. Balance is the key.”
What is a travel team? In most cases a local person can hang out a shingle and start a travel team. He or she then links in with the city or the school and names the group and gets support from either the city or the school or both. Then they link up with other travel teams in nearby cities and with regional and national organizations. Then they hire coaches.
In many cases parents shell out thousands of dollars a year for their kids to be on these travel teams. They are called elite travel teams because the kid must make the team. But, if little Johnny doesn’t make the A team, never fear, there’s a B team and if demand is great enough, a C and D team.
Where there is  this amount of money, there’s always the potential for problems. Where does all of this money flow?
Those hanging out their shingles normally hire high school kids or dads who played the sport to coach. They pay pretty much jack squat and that’s what the kids get in coaching. But, for what they charge, they should be providing more than jack squat. In some cases high school coaches endorse the travel teams as feeder teams. Really, do they get paid to do that? Who audits the books for these travel teams. If parents will shell out the money, who cares? The travel teams endorse personal coaches. Really, are there kickbacks for that?
This is how this country now trains athletes. Is it a good way? Well, how many really promising athletes get cut from a travel team and never play the sport again? Cut by an inept coach who can’t really assess talent or cut in favor of that person’s kid who isn’t athletic. How much bad coaching does a kid get for money that would have paid for good coaching?
This all seemed to start with soccer. Soccer and title nine women’s college sports. Parents want to get their kids out for exercise and coordination and soccer was the place for that. City park districts were where it started. Then someone asks the parents, “are you going to have little Sarah try out for the travel team?”. Well, little Sarah’s not all that good, but let’s see. She makes the C high kicker’s travel team. Now her new friends are travel team converts. Little Johnny makes the A high kicker’s travel team for 7 year olds the next year. Then, it’s travel soccer, travel volleyball, and travel softball for Sarah. All her old soccer friends and the parents Sarah’s parents have met from that first park district soccer team are all aboard. Little Johnny is on travel soccer, soon to become travel lacrosse, travel basketball, and travel baseball.
Ten years and thousands of dollars later, Sarah and Johnny’s mom and dad hit reality. Neither of the kids have made any varsity sport. Neither of the kids have any other interest. Both of the kids have average grades since they’ve been too tired at night from practices and games to study. Mom and dad have had no life since the first travel team.
Those thousands of dollars have gone somewhere. Not to the mediocre coaches. Not to cities or schools. Where did the money go? To uniform manufacturers, to sports equipment manufacturers and retailers, to umpires and referees, to hotels and restaurants, to airlines and for gasoline. Did some of it go where it shouldn’t have gone? I don’t really know, but someone helped keep Sarah and Johnny’s parents on this hopeless mission. Was it the promise of scholarships? Was it peer pressure? Was it the false belief that a kid who makes a travel team can automatically make the varsity in that sport?
I walk in the local park, spring, summer, and fall. In that park are numerous athletic fields. Every day there are dozens of games being played. Soccer, baseball, softball, and more recently, lot’s of lacrosse. As I walk,  I sometimes watch a little of whatever game I’m passing.  On occasion I will see something that makes me stop and watch. A young boy or girl will make moves with a soccer ball that other kids never make. Or a kid will hit a baseball where balls don’t get hit. When I see that, I know from sixty years of experience, that kid will play that sport as long as that kid wants to play. It’s called rare talent. Most high school teams are made up of kids who always had that rare talent. All college teams have that.
I’ve decided that travel sports teams are a cult. They suck parents in when the kids are very young and the become the one thing that family does. They pay for the kids to support the cult. What’s the future for these one-dimensional kids who lose that one dimension, by 9th grade in many cases?
What happens to the parents who have spent 15 years in the cult? Do they hang out a shingle and try to get their money back?
Please follow and like us:

Other Articles You Might Enjoy:

  • No Related Posts

Leave a Reply