I’m biased. I’m a big believer in travel ball (though I haven’t always been). But while there are significant benefits, there are also drawbacks of travel baseball. It isn’t for everyone.
Maybe you haven’t made that jump yet. Or maybe you have, and you’re weighing whether it’s a good long-term decision for your child. Here’s a list of the drawbacks that you should consider…
1. It’s Expensive
The truth is that the cost of travel baseball is a wide range depending on what you do.
But if you want to play at a high level — and sometimes if you don’t — there is going to be sticker shock. Uniforms, indoor facility, tournaments, and more can easily add up to multiple thousands of dollars per year.
But there are also hidden costs associated with travel baseball. Baseball camps, private instruction, meals, equipment, and more all add up.
This is actually one of my biggest gripes about travel baseball. Not everyone can afford it. As a result, there are very talented players who could play, but who can’t.
And meanwhile, there are some less talented players who probably shouldn’t play (not only due to ability level, but love of the game), but do.
While travel is involved in the hidden costs of travel baseball that make it expensive, there’s more than just cost that makes the travel part potentially problematic.
Parents have jobs. Parents can’t always get out of work. If you play for a team that travels often, it can add a lot of stress to the family.
How will you get off of work? How will you get your work done while at the tournament? Are you losing income in the meantime?
3. School Commitments
While it’s always good to have a balance and do things out of school, the travel baseball time commitment can be significant. Will it impact the time dedicated to studies?
The week can be very full with baseball-related activities during the school year, particularly once the season starts. Practices, private lessons, league games, and more.
Even if your child has the time to get his homework done, is there a cost? Is he getting enough sleep?
4. Forget Vacations
It’s something of a joke for most travel baseball families, but the struggle is real. Finding time to do anything other than baseball is pretty difficult during the baseball season. Those who commit to this life accept it. It’s not so easy for everyone.
You can schedule vacations during the season and just accept that your child will miss a tournament or two. You can also wait until after the season, but that often means a vacation during the school year.
In our house, our biggest vacations are our actual tournament trips (we make Arizona a family “vacation” during the spring) or during the winter.
The exhaustion level will depend on how much you play, practice, and travel, but it’s real. For players, coaches, and parents alike.
Constantly running around. Early mornings on the weekend. Hot summers when kids can play three or four games on a given day.
It’s not for everyone, and it can break you. Burnout — for everyone involved — becomes a real risk.
I constantly see people bagging on travel baseball, saying that specialization is bad. The assumption is that if you play travel baseball, you don’t play anything else.
That’s not really true, at least it doesn’t need to be true. The Spiders have kids who play basketball, football, soccer, track, and cross country. It’s a tough balance, but it can be done.
That said, playing multiple sports adds stress. Playing another sport at an advanced level with a high time commitment in addition to baseball is not easy. While not easy, we’ve had players who do it.
In most cases, travel ball kids will find other sports, but play them at a lower commitment level. Rec level flag football or basketball, in particular. It can be done, especially if seasons don’t conflict too much.
The bottom line is that once you play travel baseball, it is difficult to find time for other things. You can do it, but be prepared for more chaos.
7. Cut Throat
This ain’t rec ball. Travel baseball is cut throat. You may not make the team that you want to join. You may not get to play the position that you want to play. If you don’t perform, you may not keep your spot on the team.
This is a difficult thing for players and parents to accept. But it’s the nature of the beast.
If you add up all of the things we’ve already listed here so far, you come to drama. It’s difficult to avoid.
It’s expensive. It’s exhausting. It’s cut throat. It’s competitive. This is a recipe for discontent, politics, and drama.
Parents get mad at coaches. Parents get competitive with each other. Coaches get burned out. Friendships are strained. Teams blow up.
This isn’t to say that you won’t find drama in rec and league ball. I’m sure you will. But the environment in travel ball makes drama difficult to avoid. It’s why the right mix of coaches, players, and parents is so critical.
There’s a certain level of natural selection in travel ball. Which teams are blowing up this year? You always hope it’s not yours.
9. Not Ideal for Everyone
It’s an unfortunate truth. Travel ball just isn’t for everybody.
Maybe your son doesn’t have the ability. Maybe he has the ability but not the passion. Or it’s a commitment that simply does not work into your schedule, his schoolwork, or your budget. That’s okay.
While he should absolutely play, there’s very little reason to spend thousands of dollars per year if your child doesn’t play at a high level or have a passion for it. This is especially the case if that’s a difficult financial commitment for you.
Just as many of our players will participate in rec basketball or flag football, rec baseball can be just as beneficial to someone who doesn’t need or want the high level of commitment.
As much as I love travel baseball, these are just a few of the potential drawbacks that travel ball kids, coaches, and families face regularly. Anything else that you would include?
Let me know in the comments below!