So Your Kid Wants to Play Travel Ball?

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Hi, my name is Jill, and I’m a travel ball mom. Honestly, I tried hard not to be. My husband and I had five little girls in six years, and a wise friend coached me early on to be careful about those kinds of activities that could take over your life and wreck your family budget.

So we said “no” to a couple of sports and activities that heaven forbid all five of them should want to do it, we would never have the time or resources to sustain it. And we cautiously let them pick one activity at a time. When given the option, consolidation was a high value. Having two or three of them in the same activity was just way more sane than five different activities and schedules.

Some of our daughters loved variety and tried new things until they found something that seemed to stick. Piano, soccer, oboe, flute, dance, cooking. We did it all. But one of our daughters had “the eye of the tiger” and at 8-years-old wanted to play softball in the Olympics, asked her little league coach so many times if she could play catcher that he couldn’t say “no” again (much to her mother’s dismay), and now at 16-years-old is starting to hear from college coaches.

Playing sports teaches life lessons much more valuable than the skills of the game. Be ready for your little athlete to learn about receiving criticism, humility, pain, commitment, playing when it’s not fun, it’s too hot, it’s too cold. Your job, momma, is to help your child see what they learned whether they won or lost, whether they hit a home run or cheered from the bench.

Regardless of the level of play, you’ll quickly learn that not all coaches are created equal. Some are kind and tender-hearted. Some are militant and will push your kid harder than you think they should. But this is also a learning opportunity. As a grown up, you know that not all teachers, professors, and bosses lead the way you like. But playing for a variety of coaches helps our kids learn how to be respectful and work diligently for a variety of leaders. At times it might even be you who is learning to respect and work with difficult people while setting an example for your son or daughter. 

Know what you’re committing your family to and count the cost. When we lived in Orlando and Chicagoland, playing “travel ball” didn’t really involve much travel because most teams came our way. One parent could attend the game while the other could manage the rest of the kids. Then we could swap spots. However, when you live in a small town, like we do, you may find yourself driving two hours just for practice and spending every other weekend out of town.

During one rough season, we had a daughter in travel soccer and another in travel softball at the same time. With my husband at home writing a sermon most weekends, I was driving across Phoenix trying to be there for both girls. Thankfully, my soccer player decided the level of competition at her age was not for her. Otherwise, I could not have done it all. Begin with the end in mind. Can your family manage without you or daddy for the weekend? Is your whole family willing to spend weekends at the ball field? Can you afford the team fees, uniforms, equipment, lessons, hotel rooms and more? Honestly, I work a second job to help pay for it all.

If your student athlete wants to play college ball, learning to take initiative with the colleges, sending introductory emails to the coaches, sharing their skills videos and resume becomes a part-time job. Resist the temptation to do it for them. I ask my daughter to make a “to do” list each week, pick a couple of colleges that she wants to reach out to, and then it’s up to her.

Travel ball is definitely an investment of time and money, but the dividends are lots of time together in the car and having a front row seat to watching your son or daughter’s skills, character and dreams take shape before your eyes.