The O’Jays made the title of this blog famous. We’ve all heard the funky version that leads up to a very stylized use of the word to make a point that money is pretty important. For us old guys, Pink Floyd hit the nail right on the head! Money, it’s a gas! Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash!
There is a question that many softball people want to ask, but usually avoid asking, for the fear of really knowing what they are spending! Make no mistake about it, I think travel ball is a great opportunity for players and families to make memories that last a lifetime, but just remember to get the calculator out and multiply the numbers you will read below by the number of years your child will play travel ball!
What does it cost to play fastpitch travel softball? Depends, but it ain’t cheap!!
The range here is wide but I have seen teams as low as $300 for a year as high as $5,000 for a very high-level team. The fee usually, but not always, includes uniforms, helmet, bag, sanction fees, tournament entry and insurance. You may also be expected to use the coach of that high level team for lessons and other services. But as always, read the fine print.
Of course the player fees can be “negatively” impacted by entering more expensive tournaments which, again, range from as low as a couple hundred bucks to as much as $3,500 for a week-long exposure event. Or the may be “positively” impacted by sponsorship agreements that provide certain programs with reduced/free equipment.
The sad news is that the old adage of “you get what you pay for” doesn’t hold true here. You can have a great experience on a low budget team and a nightmare being on a high-budget team. There is no hard and fast guideline here.
You will play some tournaments close to home, hopefully! But you will also travel. Duh, they call it travel ball for a reason. If you are lucky enough, or stubborn enough, to play close to home, you can save on motel costs for some tournaments.
But there will be several tournaments each year that it just isn’t possible for you to drive back and forth. Expect at least $100 a night per room if you are not too picky and much more if you are. And never forget he good old “stay to play” events where you get to pay $200 plus for a room that every other weekend costs about 100 bucks!
Gas ain’t cheap these days, so even if you get to drive, expect at least a $50 per weekend fuel bill. And don’t forget that you will be driving to practices, tryouts and other team functions. It adds up, and also plan a new car sooner than later. The mileage adds up fast! And unless you pack a picnic basket, you will be eating on the road while driving.
Flights are going to be on your horizon, especially as you move up in age. The older kids all want to play in Colorado, flight, and California, flight and Orlando, maybe a flight! Bottom line, your child isn’t going to travel alone so you are flying at least two people and sometimes…
Rental cars ain’t cheap. Even if you avoid all the up-sell nonsense at the checkout counter. Again expect a couple hundred dollars every time you fly.
Your team will play in a bunch of tournaments. I mean a bunch! Each one has cost attached to it. Gate fees usually range from $5 a day to $40/50 for a week-long pass, if this is a big deal exposure event. Many places allow no outside food to be brought into the park and a tournament scheduler will be sure you have breaks but not enough time to run to Subway, which means, Concessions!! $4 hot dogs and $3 bottles of water adds up pretty quick! And, when your kid is young, you never leave without a tournament t-shirt! What does it all add up to? Probably a couple hundred dollars per person per year spent at the tournaments!
Do you live close to the practice location for the team you are playing on? This seems like a no-brainer but in the modern world of travel ball many teams have players from a wide area. Many drive hours for practices, some even fly, do the math!
Does your travel team expect you to take lessons from one fo their coaches (not uncommon)? Does this mean another car ride to get there? How does the rate of the “required” instructor compare to your local person? Lessons can help your player improve and are highly recommended but, again, buyer beware!
We all know we play travel ball to get a college scholarship! You ain’t getting a scholarship without attending camps. Whats the cost, again a huge range, but some are a great value at a couple hundred bucks to a terrible value for many times that cost.
Your kid isn’t showing up with a 5 year old bat, unless it is the “hot” bat you got off of the internet that isn’t being produced anymore to give your kid an edge. Spikes, batting gloves, socks, belts and of course, mom and dad have to have spirit wear to show their support for their kid.
How much paid vacation do you have? Do you miss a pay day when you skip cutting a lawn or seeing a client to go to the ball park? These are hidden costs, but still costs.
The bottom line?
Playing on a local travel team with a limited amount of travel and little or no private instruction is probably going to cost you between $2,000 and $3,000. Playing on a high level travel team that plans on seeing the world, and demands extra training, is going to be over $20,000. Is it worth it? Of course it is…
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.