When kids show potential and an interest in playing sports at a highly competitive level, parents should understand both the opportunities as well as the sacrifices involved with participating in youth travel teams.

Youth Sports Travel Teams Explained

A travel team is comprised of young athletes who show significant potential and dedication to a sport. As the name implies, they regularly compete at out-of-town locations. But, there is more to it than simply the distance traveled. These young athletes are considered to be on an elite level for their age group and acceptance on a team is by invitation only after try outs. Teams are run by private, for-profit organizations. Professional coaches determine player acceptance, placement and play time. Everyone on the team is expected to have a high level of commitment for improving their technical skills, game knowledge, and sportsmanship. And when it’s time to compete, players often travel long distances to participate in games, tournaments and showcase events. Accordingly, parents must be prepared for the considerable time and financial commitment required to support their child.

To help further clarify youth travel teams, consider the contrast to local recreational sports. Rec leagues are open to all kids in an age group regardless of experience or skill level and players join a team upon registration without try outs. Typically, everyone on the team will be given an opportunity to participate in all practices and all games, which are held at local courts or fields.

Youth travel teams operate at a higher level. With professional coaching, demanding practices, and frequent opportunities for competitive games, participation on a travel team can help kids earn a leadership role on their high school team and get recruited for college.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Playing on a Youth Travel Team

Advantages

  • Higher level of competition compared with local recreation leagues

  • Professional coaching and dedicated teammates

  • Exposure to college scouts

  • Development of commitment, dedication and determination

  • Kids gain intelligence about competing at a higher level in the sport, opening up opportunities for a leadership position on school teams

  • Team camaraderie can offer strong peer support and lead to life long friendships

  • Travel experience fosters emotional and social development, independence, and decision-making

Disadvantages

  • Considerable financial costs for registration fees, travel, camps, private lessons, practice gear and uniforms, shoes, and equipment

  • Separation from neighborhood friends and immediate family members who do not travel

  • Physical and psychological strain on kids can lead to burn out

  • Limits exposure to and involvement in other sports and activities

  • Intimidating, competitive environment for young kids, especially those who travel in car pools without their own parents or family

  • Participation in a travel team does not guarantee college opportunities or success as a professional athlete

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Recommended Reading

Chris Meadows

  • Summary. A compilation of observations and experiences of training and coaching athletes that go on to Division 1 programs. This book is a reference for parents who want to support and prepare their child, and for student athletes seeking a scholarship and a place on a D-1 roster.

  • Reviews. A motivational and to the point book about how to prepare for and compete on a travel basketball team with the goal of earning a spot on a college team. This is a realistic view into the world of travel teams, for both parents and players.

Order a Copy

Tracking the Top Youth Travel Teams

Tracking the Rankings of National Youth Hockey Teams

How Does Your 9-Year-Old’s Hockey Team Rank Nationally?

ML Notes – a quick summary of the article.

  • This article showcases MyHockey Rankings, which tracks and publishes youth hockey statistics. The site contains information on 24,000 teams and ranks approximately 18,000 teams. The data is received from coaches and parents and the rankings are based on an algorithm developed by the site’s founder.

  • MYHockey Rankings publishes weekly win-loss records, schedules, and other stats viewed primarily by coaches, players and parents. Coaches use the rankings as a way to identify other peer level teams for competition.

    Contrarians hold an opinion that youth rankings shift the goal to improving stats rather than focus on player development. One example highlights organizations that recruit elite players who live a great distance away. With a roster full of advanced players the team must travel countless miles to find other teams at the same competitive level.

Selected Sites to View Rankings by Sport

Baseball

Basketball

Hockey

Additional Resources

Sport For All, Play For Life

Project Play

ML Notes – a quick summary of the program:

  • Develops, applies and shares knowledge that builds healthy communities through sports

  • Youth sports strategies to get every kid in the game

  • School sports resources to meet the health and education needs high school student athletes

  • Children’s Rights statement is endorsed by 100+ organizations to maintain minimum conditions under which youth should be served through sports and recognize that all youth have a right to play

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