Let me start by saying that I started out as a high school coach, so I do have a clear prejudice towards school teams but that doesn’t preclude me from having strong opinions about this hot topic.
I hear it all the time: “School ball just isn’t as good (competitive, challenging, difficult, valuable to my recruiting) as travel ball. “
Or the even more disturbing, “We are giving up school ball to focus on travel!”
Yes, many travel ball programs do play at a higher competitive level than some high school programs. The nature of travel ball where you are collecting a group of talented players and creating teams should lend itself to this conclusion. It’s not my position to argue that high school ball is more competitive but that doesn’t mean school ball isn’t important too.
What does school ball offer that travel ball doesn’t?
The school ball experience is much more like a college program than travel ball is. Players deal with each other every day. They learn how to get along with teammates, how to work out issues and how to go to practice every day, and in some cases, strength training. In travel ball, you meet up for practices and games but don’t have the same day to-day interaction.
School and community pride is also a huge benefit of representing your school on the softball field. Playing with a group of players you go to school with and grown up with creates a different kind of memories than those I think you see in travel ball. In many communities, a trip to the state tournament is met with a police escort and parade, not to mention the coverage of the local media that I think is missing in travel.
So what is the moral to this story? Both travel and high school ball are really important. If your high school team isn’t that strong, you can still learn a lot and take away many memories that will last a lifetime.
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