By Kate Leavell
There just aren’t enough travel teams around! (Said no one ever…)
Many coaches or parents, unhappy with what’s being offered for their kids, or the prices of teams, or the tournaments being chosen, the practice time or location, or the lack of quality at the rec team, are jumping head first into starting a travel team before trying to better the systems already in place. Even college coaches are asking: please, stop watering down the talent pool by creating countless travel teams in the same saturated areas. They don’t have time to go watch 12 teams to see players that really could have all been together in the first place. Instead of a few teams with all the top talent, its 12 (made up number) teams with some great talent, mixed with the players they grabbed, to have the numbers needed to get to the tournament. Hint: if you cut NO one, you don’t have the top talent in your area. 🙂 This doesn’t really do the super talented athletes any favors out there on the field. When they have no safe place to pass the ball too, or no one to set up a play for their bread and butter shot while they are being scouted, it’s not in their best interest. Sometimes that’s the only option you have as new teams are formed for the first time in new areas get started, and that’s part of growth. But if there are already several teams in the area, the answer is rarely going to be adding another one.
In addition to the saturation of teams reaching it’s breaking point, the competition between teams is getting downright adversarial. In my own brief attempt to help out with a few travel teams, I faced countless angry phone calls, rumors, and accusations of who tried to recruit what player from who’s team. I was immediately at odds with coaches who formerly had been friends, and suddenly players were owned by their programs. Contracts requiring players to commit only to that team, and not speak with coaches from other teams, tryouts and events interfering with high school team activities or season, etc. It can get pretty heated and I decided that atmosphere just was not for me. Of course this doesn’t represent all teams or all areas, but there is enough of this out there that it’s worth discussing.
Many parents have called me and asked me to start new teams in the Atlanta area. My answer is always the same. We have a ton of select teams out here, what we need instead are better developmental programs for the new players that are flowing into lacrosse in huge amounts every season, we need the girls who have been playing 3+ years and still can’t catch or name the lines on the field to start getting better. Alarmingly, some of the brand new players, due to the lack of available players to fill too many travel teams, are going straight to travel teams and never being developed at all. How is this going to help our sport get to the next level?
Thinking of, or know someone, thinking of starting a travel team? Here’s a fun little flow chart to help make that decision a little easier. It’s really all in fun, but the message is the same, look to better the developmental programs whenever possible before looking to add what we really already have way too much of.