I love travel teams, club ball , whatever you want to call it when your kids play in the off season in fun places against teams from all over. I love to coach it, watch it, and especially play it!
For me, it’s the bonding time with my daughter, fun girl time at hotels, new restaurants and then sunny (hopefully) days watching her do her thing. Seeing the talent that’s out there, seeing the smiles, really creative uniforms and running into familiar faces. Lacrosse is a family community and traveling with it is a great time.
I’m sitting on a plane next to a parent who reminds me why I also dislike travel and club ball. It reminds me of conversations I have too often with lax parents. Families leveraging their income against participation in what they have been told is the only option to play in college. Kids being promised opportunity to play at top tier schools despite being relatively unskilled and setting up unrealistic expectations, the promise of financial reward through full scholarships to college. I can’t count the times I’ve had a parent tell me they HAVE to play club ball, they don’t know how they will pay for it, they are miserable but doing what’s best for the child.
In a sport that I love, I wish this false malicious lie that this is the only path you take if your kid enjoys lacrosse would just go away.
Club ball isn’t conceptually evil, if you do it for the right reasons it’s a great addition to your child’s sports experience. But how many times do you or your child drag yourself out of bed early Saturday morning and truly hate what this sport is doing to your life, your free time or family time. How often do you look at the financial burden and feel like you have too instead of you want too? Is your child 13, 14 or 15 and stressed about college before they know how to drive, survive high school or make themself an ommlete without burning their fingers? Remember when sports were, I don’t know, fun?! A weekend game here or there, then a slurpee from 7-11 or maybe a team dinner afterwards and then back to playing with your friends the rest of the weekend?
Here’s the deal, it’s not a must, it’s a can or a get too, a luxury often, but it’s not a must for all lacrosse players. Travel ball is awesome, but if you hate it I can’t help but say- find another program, take a break, or do something else in the off season. If your child wants to play in college, there’s a program to play on whether it be DI or club ball. If your child is an athlete and a strong lacrosse player they don’t need an expensive program to prove that. Send them to a camp at the school they are interested in to meet the coaches. And if they are an average lacrosse player who loves other activities that’s fine too! The need to be a superstar at the best school signed at the earliest age is draining kids tanks and parents wallets.
When, and if, they get to the top program they think they want when they are pre-adolescent, will they love it still? Are you willing to put that much $ on their dream college at such a young age? My kids don’t even stick with a musical Instrument for a full semester let alone know what school they will want in 5 years.
If you are finding yourself talking about your off season in terms of have too, being trapped, broke, unhappy, or otherwise anything other than what a cool experience it is then maybe it’s time to reevaluate the plan.
A good honest travel program will admit that travel ball isn’t for everyone, isn’t a guarantee of anything, and is an optional way to play more lacrosse for those kids that just can’t get enough of it with some chance of exposure to coaches when they travel. They do exist, I know of many programs that will give it to you straight.
As a high school coach, getting kids straight off of a full year burn out program is frustrating. I want them hungry to come learn and excited about the season starting- but instead many of them are just sick of the non-stop grind, tired of the performance pressure, easily or already injured, and ready for a break.
Take some time to consider the reason behind your off season choices, it may be that travel ball is a great option for you, but if it’s not, it’s ok to let it go.