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SCOTT BAKER’S WALKIN’ THE SIDELINES: A Reason To Travel: Know Your Purpose

To travel or not to travel?

That is the question.

Travel teams have become a huge part of the sports landscape for youth and high school age athletes.

Why?

The answers are numerous.

Some travel in order to seek a higher level of competition.

Some travel because it allows them to compete outside of a regular sports season.

Some travel because they desire to play at the collegiate level and believe that traveling is necessary to gain the exposure necessary to gain a college scholarship.

Each is a valid reason.

Regardless of the reason for doing so, traveling for sports can be very expensive. So much so that I’ve heard stories of families filing bankruptcy because of the expenses incurred while traveling for their child to play a sport. I’ve spoken to others who will say that looking back, they are not sure the outcome was worth the cost. Registration fees, lodging, gas, food, etc. all add up very quickly.

Some will also argue that it is not about the money and claim that it was all well worth it regardless if there was any real sport value to it or not.

Last summer, I traveled with my daughter to compete in a three-day soccer event in New Jersey. For my daughter to compete that is. I’m well beyond my playing days, and soccer certainly wasn’t my sport. The tournament was billed as a big exposure event for athletes.

Exposure to what?

I suppose it all depends on each athlete’s needs and desires. I could easily estimate the cost of that venture at $1,000 for our family to travel to that three-day event. That was three days, three games, $1,000. That is 1000 George Washingtons.

Could I have found another way to spend $1,000?

Actually, I could have easily found many ways to spend $1,000. So the questions to ask are: Why did I do it? And was traveling necessary?

Well, my belief is that it depends. For each individual player, the reasons differ.

First, I believe it is extremely important to understand why you are traveling.

Second, you must understand the true skill level and potential of the player.

In carefully considering these two questions, you can make an honest assessment of whether or not traveling is necessary and beneficial.

Could you get the same benefit by staying closer to home?

Could your school, club or team host a tournament and bring competition to you?

My reason for deciding to travel to the New Jersey event for my daughter had very little to do with exposure to college coaches. I can’t even say that I saw a college coach there, though I’m sure there was. However, exposure was a part of my plan where she was concerned. I believed that at the time what my daughter needed most was exposure to quality competition.

You see, she claims to have the desire to play college soccer. If she is to do so, she must understand that the world is loaded with exceptional talent. She needed to see that. The quicker she had that opportunity to have her eyes opened to the world outside of Clinton County, PA, the better off she’d be. Realizing where she stood in relation to quality competition would allow her to evaluate her abilities and weaknesses so that she could then get to getting better.

In other words, she could start working toward her goal with a better understanding of how she measured up against others.

You see, I believe that the most important thing is to be realistic. Realism in where your child is, what they need to do, and what they are capable of is of utmost importance. Failing to do so will ultimately result in shattered dreams. Some people who travel and spend thousands of dollars to do so are doing it blindly. They are doing it because they don’t understand or care to admit the true ability level of their child. They fail to recognize that their child is not good enough to travel in search of better competition. Their child could get what they need right near home with very little expense.

Sadly, many of those people are being told that traveling to this event and that event will help their child gain a college scholarship. So, they justify their expenses with the belief that their costs now will more than pay off down the road when their child gets that full ride to a DI school.

Sorry, that is a very misguided perception. The chances of that are extremely slim in most cases. What these people are getting is bad advice from people who claim to have their child’s best interest in mind. However, what many of those people have in mind is their own bottom line.

Please hear me when I say this: There is a travel team for anyone that wants to play and whose parents can afford to have their kid do so. Anyone.

If you have the money, they have a spot for your child. Does that spot on the travel team indicate that your child is good?

Wishful thinking.

Now to be clear, the above does not represent all travel teams or coaches of those teams as there are certainly some good ones out there. That is where the challenge comes in. How do you find the right ones?

If you are looking for the best advice as to whether your child should be traveling for sports, I suggest that you seek the advice of those who do not have a financial stake in the decision.

One of the best places to get that advice would be the kid’s home school coach. Chances are that the coach may already be offering similar opportunities at zero or little cost to the player.

Now, does this all mean that I oppose travel sports teams categorically?

No, it absolutely does not.

What I’m saying is that a simple decision to travel without understanding the purpose for doing so is simple craziness.

In fact, it’s so crazy that I might suggest that if you have $1,000 that you’re simply looking to get rid of, hit me up and I will offer you some suggestions. My bank account has plenty of room.

When considering whether to travel or not for sports, it’s simple math: Know your purpose. Maybe it’s necessary and maybe it’s not. Only by being educated on the matter can you know.

Good luck.

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