Travel Baseball Tryout Conundrum – Part 1


I originally posted this on our old website on August 8, 2012, so keep that in mind when you read it.  Other than that, I think it’s still relevant and good information.

It’s that time of year again. A stressful time for parents, players, coaches and administrators. A time when only weeks after finishing a season with one team/coach/organization, families take to the tryout circuit looking for greener pastures. Luckily, I’ve only had the luxury of participating in this chaotic time as a coach and administrator, but I can only hope the Indiana travel baseball world has come to it’s senses before my 3 year old twins get to the “travel ready” age. Of course, with the path we are on, there will be 4u travel baseball by 2014, so maybe it’s only a year away for them.

I think there is a reason this mass hysteria even exists. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I’m not calling anyone insane, but I do think this is a classic case of people not knowing what they don’t know. Here is how the cycle works for most families.

It all starts with the first year they decided to play travel. There should be a very defined reason a player/family decides to take the travel route. Unfortunately, that reason is never defined by most, so they enter the travel maze because it was the cool thing to do, and more importantly, they have no idea what they are trying to gain from it. They go through the season and are disappointed for one reason or another and then move on to the tryout circuit the next Fall. The cycle starts over again, and now you see the reason for my insanity analogy above.

So, what’s the solution? I think a family should take the time to sit down and really discuss the decision to play travel baseball. One of the most important phases of that conversation needs to include a process of the player writing down what his goals of playing travel are and what he is trying to gain through that experience. I think this needs to be done by himself and without mom and dad knowing what he wrote down. I think mom and dad need to do the same thing without the player knowing what they wrote down. I think most parents will be shocked by the results of that experiment.

In my 10 years of experience in travel baseball, I think what most parents are wanting out of the travel experience is very different than what most players want out of the travel experience. However, because this experiment rarely takes place, that difference is never known, so parents get upset because their expectations weren’t met even if their expectations weren’t the same as their son’s expectations.

The coaching fraternity has a saying that says, “It’s never the kid that has the problem and it’s always the parents”, that basically means the kid is rarely the one that is unhappy because his internal expectations are usually met. It’s the parents internal expectations that don’t get met and then they get shared with the player and then a mess happens.

The solution for the travel baseball conundrum part 1? Make sure you know what you are getting into and why you are getting into it. Make sure that the players goals and expectations are the key focus. Make sure to perform that experiment before, during and after the season to make sure the players goals and expectations haven’t changed. If they have changed, have a clear understanding of why and what adjustments need to be made to keep the new goals and expectations as the key focus.