The right decision may be for you to leave rec ball for a select or travel team, but it must be the right team and the right circumstances for your son and your family.
It’s important to note the dangers below aren’t necessarily present on every team, but it’s up to you to ask the right questions and find the right fit before your family commits.
After all, we want to end the season NOT broke and burned out!
It seems like everyone is moving to “Select” or “Travel” baseball earlier and earlier these days.
Most competitive teams (and many who are not) have made the jump by the 8 year old season. Some are going even earlier. And as most teams approach the end of their current summer seasons, coaches and parents are in a near panic to find the right team for next season.
While there are plenty of reasons to want to get away from the rec organization, or the organizations that govern their play, you must be careful.
There are several things to watch out for that could be detrimental to your son’s baseball career, overall development, and even your family life.
As you read the ones I’ve highlighted below (which I see often), keep the question from one of my earlier posts in mind: what are your baseball goals for your son?
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High Financial Cost
There are ways to play without it costing an arm and a leg, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
I can tell you from first hand experience, our “All-Star” team spent no more playing in select tournaments all year than we would have if we played in all All-Star tournaments. Everything was local, most select tournaments have minimal team entry fees, and uniform and equipment costs are largely the same.
There is a misconception about gate entry fees for parents. It is true the gate fees for select tournaments can run $10 per day compared to $3 or $5 per day for All-Star tournaments.
But the tournaments only last 2 days! Since All-Star tournaments run Thursday through Tuesday, my wife saved $10 each week when we played in a select tournament.
Tournament Entry Fees
Most local and regional select tournaments for ages 6U, 7U, and 8U are $75 or less per tournament, and lately I’ve seen many of them free with the tournament host relying purely on gate fee and concessions to pay umpires and make money.
More and more people are hosting tournaments these days, and one way they compete is on team entry fees. It is possible to pay very little for entry fees over the course of the season, but this line item does need to be in your team’s budget.
As age level increases, so do the entry fees. When teams get to 12U and 13U, entry fees can approach $250-$300 per tournament. 15U-18U can be $1,000 or more. Remember, as the age increases, so do the cost of umpires and fields.
If you live in a decently populated area, there should be plenty of tournaments within a half hour commute. If you don’t, you’ll need to travel to find different teams to play.
If a team goes out of town, immediately add food, hotel, gas, and entertainment costs. For the average family of 4, that’s going to run $500 minimum for a two day tournament. That’s a significant expense for most people.
If you can make it a day trip, that’ll save hotel costs, but you still have gas, food, and any entertainment expenses.
This is one that I categorize as a hidden cost because it’s often not talked about until the team is already committed. Don’t let this one sneak up on you. Talk to the coach before the season about expected travel.
Practice Field and/or Facility
In my opinion, the biggest new need for a team that goes select is finding a place to practice. Unless you have a unique relationship with someone, this is going to cost money.
A team should budget at least $1,000 for a year to practice somewhere outdoors. If you rent an indoor facility for an hour a week in the winter, you can expect to spend an additional $500 to $1,000.
No matter how frugal a coach or team wants to be there are always going to be costs of doing business. Even the least expensive no frills uniforms cost money. Add baseballs, batting tee, and catcher’s gear, and you’ll spend at least $1,000 per team. That’s on the extreme low side.
$2,500 to $5,000 per year is not an uncommon budget for a younger team. This would cover tournament entry fees, uniforms, equipment, facility rental, and any additional administrative expenses like insurance, snacks, drinks, and team party.
Some teams spend much more depending on the goals of the team, and this additional cost is usually wrapped into player fees.
You can find a team that costs $100 per year per player, and you can find a team that costs $1,000 per year per player. Just make sure you know up front. The worst thing that can happen is the coach comes back to the parents mid-way through the season asking for more money.
The bottom line is a young select team can certainly maintain a tight budget, but if not carefully planned out in advance, it can get out of control quickly.
Never commit to a team without realistic cost expectations, and I would include all of the above points on your question list to the coach.
This is a tough one for me. I want to win. I want to win at everything I do in life, and I want my son to have the same approach.
Unfortunately, winning games cannot be your top priority for coach pitch and young player pitch baseball. A primary focus on winning has a side effect of stifling long term development.
The clearest example of this is never rotating players to different positions in order to win every game. It should not be a random placement every single game, but in 12U down every player should get a shot at developing at more than one position. It’s too early to specialize.
The chances your 7-year-old will remain at their same position forever is unlikely. A coach and team that doesn’t promote learning the complete game is detrimental to the long term development (and success) of their players.
I get that nobody likes to lose, but your son needs to know how handle loss and failure. It will make them better in the long run as they encounter more and more failure that will come with advanced competition.
Just be sure the top priority is fun and development. Do that, enter the right tournaments, play the game the right way, and wins will come.
Too Many Games in a Day
Saturday and Sunday only tournaments are great for family schedules during the week, but they can really lead to too many games. While younger coach pitch teams don’t have to worry about pitching rules, 4 or 5 games in a day is really too much for an 8 year old in 94 degree heat.
Besides being able to get an entire tournament completed in two days, there’s really no upside to this.
You won’t be able to change it, but just be careful and make sure your child doesn’t enter burn out mode too early. It’s also just good to know that if you go Select, you’ll be spending mostly all day Saturday and Sunday on the ball field.
Stay hydrated and keep it fun!
Not Enough Team Practice
Games, games, games, and games. It seems like that’s all anyone wants to do these days in youth baseball.
Games are fun, and at the younger levels many aspects of the game are best learned in a full speed game situation.
But there are so many parts of the game that must be taught outside of the game situation. Some kids may only get one or two balls hit to them in a game. How are they supposed to get better? They need more reps!
There are also team aspects of the game that don’t happen regularly enough in a game that need to be taught at practice. A coach can’t call a time out every time a teaching moment comes up in a game.
Games are fun, and I support playing a lot of them. Just make sure your younger teams are getting enough practice as a team. Putting in the hard work during the week will make those weekends together much more satisfying!
Note: Practicing too much isn’t good either. Two times a week for youth is plenty, and I could be talked into doing one per week depending on the team and situation.
Just be sure to understand the practice schedule for both in-season and off-season before you commit to a team.
Here’s the deal. If your child is more advanced than a majority of players his age, you want them to play against better competition, or you’re just tired of the same ole same ole in the rec league, moving to a select team is not a bad option.
Just be careful. Everything I just mentioned can lead to quick burnout of both your kid and your family!
Ask lots of questions, and keep your goals in mind when deciding what’s best for your child.
If you have questions about your specific situation or would like advice on how to choose the best team for your son, just hit reply and ask away! It’ll come straight to me, and I’ll respond as quickly as possible.
Coaches, if you have questions about starting or running a team, stay tuned, there’s more coming for you!
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Until next time, GET THAT ELBOW UP!