Travel Teams

TRAVEL TEAMS: The Time Has Come for Some Real Reform

As I opened today’s radio show on WFAN, I asked the question that, quite honestly, has troubled me for some time. In short, there’s no question that travel teams have spread all over the country in the last 25 years like wild fire, but in truth, these programs are unregulated, for the most part the coaches are uncertified or licensed, there’s all sorts of concerns about issues regarding costs, try outs, playing time, coaching styles, and on and on.

So my question: is there no better way for the United States to run travel sports programs?

Let’s face it. Our country has now reached the point where we rely on travel teams to produce our premier athletes. That’s great. But it seems to me that in order to produce a few polished gems, there are thousands – and probably millions – of other promising athletes who end up disillusioned, upset, and angry by their own experiences with travel teams.

As the world’s most successful and wealthiest nation, is there no other way for us to train our athletes?

Consider: the US Soccer Federation now forces HS soccer players to choose between their program and their HS varsity team. Why?

Any parent can put out a shingle and announce to the local community that he or she is starting a travel team. That parent controls the tryouts, the costs, decides who makes the team, who plays in the game, and so forth. Why do we allow this?

Too many travel team coaches talk about equal playing time at the beginning of the season, but as the season wears on, they tend to playing the more gifted athletes on the team in the hopes that the team can make the playoffs. What happened to the emphasis on developing skills in ALL of the players?

Too many travel teams are aimed at kids 10 and under. Why do we even allow travel teams for kids before they’re in middle school?

Hasn’t the time finally come to inject some sanity and start to eliminate some of this madness? Ever see a 10-year-old kid not make the cut for a travel team? The trauma is palpable, and clearly they don’t want to try out again the following year. End of athletic career. A wash-out at age 10.

Is that the right message to send a kid who’s still a few years from adolescence? Why do we allow this? Suppose the reason why the kid didn’t make the team was because the Dad who started the travel team has his own kid on the team, and he plays the same position of the kid who got cut? Is that fair?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Again, travel teams aren’t going away, but it does seem to me that we need to finally set up some real guidelines to protect our kids.