Travel Teams, What’s the Point?!
I love the opportunity of off season teams, the ones that travel and expose you to different parts of the country, players from all over with different playing styles, sleepovers in hotels with a zillion lax players taking over the tiny and kind of greenish slimy pool water, and all the bonding and memories that creates. Lacrosse sleepover summer camps are some of my best memories! The opportunity to play a sport I love as much as it’s available is A-OK with me!
But the real picture is so much less Brady Bunch than that, and I grew up in a very different era where there was never pressure for me to quit soccer because I HAD to play all year long or get to certain recruiting tournaments(in fact I was oblivious to what recruiting was!). I most definitely did not have exposure to this current frenzy that we are all in. So I have to ask, for all of us parents, coaches and players, what’s the point? What are we hoping to gain from these teams? And are we getting it?
The almost unavoidable focus of youth lacrosse is undeniably on who got signed at what college, and how young were they when that offer came in, and it has taken our eyes off the development and long term success and FUN for our children. I believe it’s becoming an addiction for approval and the growing need for some sense of validation – knowing a college coach looked our (and our kids) way. I see it in the parents, and players as soon as they get caught up in the travel tournament whirlwind. I see it in the coaches as their list of signed athletes grows. The shift from the baby youth players having fun to the conversations revolving around colleges and coaches is happening younger and younger. Worse, is the constant chatter about competition and bad blood between this travel team and that travel team, which has soured the enjoyment of youth athletics for players, parents, and even coaches who are now laxenemies. To paraphrase/quote a good friend, “when is someone going to just stand up in the midst of all this and just yell STOP!”
The belief that huge scholarships are out there and that the payoff for paying for elite travel clubs will come back to the parents is just. Plain. False. Travel teams are not one way roads to free or reduced college. I know several families who are so engrossed in this idea that they have taken out loans, second mortgages and sold belongings to fund their kid’s travel team expenses because they believe they will get full scholarships in return and it’s hard for me to watch.
The first thing that happens when you look at club teams is generally a list of what players they got signed or verbally committed, as well as the tournaments that team attends and what high level coaches come to watch their games. As a business, this is a smart marketing tool, but as parents we need to be careful not to get swept away in promises of exposure and college offers, because the end goal should not be the list of colleges that we get looks from, but the right fit for our kids educational needs.
Here are some thought provoking questions and I hope, no matter what your opinion on the subject, that the chatter gets started either way:
How many of these players who verbally commit early on, actually receive $ that is more than or even close to equaling what they put out?
How many of these players who verbally commit early are happy with the amount of playing time they end up with?
How many of these players STAY in the school that they chose for all four years, signifying that the school itself was a good fit for them and not just the frenzy of feeling wanted by a well-known coach or a DI or DII in front of the program?
How many, after all that running around for years and giving up falls, summers, vacations, etc, actually end up playing club or no lacrosse at all?
How many will say later in life that it was worth it, and conversely, how many will say the whirlwind made youth and high school pass by way too fast?
And for us parents, we need to ask, how many of these kids when they are grown up will say – that they wanted it less than their parents did?
By Kate Leavell