What’s Right with Travel Ball?

Many of you followed my recent series about all the things that I would like to change or adjust in the world of travel ball. I have to say, even I was amazed by the amount of reaction that series received, both positive and negative. Of course, I knew that it was going to shake things up a little bit and it did just that but it also encouraged some people to ponder on some things and, hopefully, consider some possibilities.

For all of the people who responded with their undying love of travel ball, who were constantly arguing that nothing needs to be changed because, in your opinions, there is nothing wrong with travel ball I promised to write the counterpoint series as well. So here we go:

  1. College Recruiting, part 1. Getting in front of the college coaches.

College softball is a spring sport and during their seasons the vast majority of a college coach’s time is spent on their current team. They have a team to prepare for the games upcoming. The practices, game planning, travel and actual game play means that they do not have much time to invest in recruiting during the spring. Now, most college coaches say that recruiting never ends but we can all see that the spring isn’t their best recruiting time.

The vast majority of our high school programs across the county play in the spring as well so those players can not use their school ball season, no matter how competitive it might be, as a tool to get seen by college coaches. There are a few states that play during the fall including here in Georgia where you will see college coaches at school ball games but even that number is limited compared to the summer. And Iowa plays their high school season in the summer which creates an even bigger challenge for those kids.

These circumstances have created a perfect storm where there is clearly a best time of the year for college coaches to see high school age players and for those players to get in front of the college coaches. Summer!! And except for Iowa, there are no high school games being played in the summer so if kids want to be seen they need to play in the summer which means travel ball fills the bill.

Over the years the summer recruiting season has undergone many different adjustments. For the college coaches the start date, dead periods, quiet periods and, once upon a time, limit on the number of days and the number of coaches have always been part of the equation. Even though there are often hoops to jump through the one constant has been that travel ball, showcases in particular, have always adjusted to make it work. This has created a very hectic couple of months where an awful lot of work has to be done by both the players who want to get recruited and the college coaches trying to recruit them.

To say the level of expertise in marketing their players and the effort that many teams are making to help their players fulfill their dream of playing college is impressive is a gross understatement. The amount of time I see travel ball coaches spending promoting their players and working the room to help a player make a connection with a college coach is often very impressive. To see the money invested and the time committed by parents to help their player chase their dream of college softball is something to behold. And finally, the promoters who are creating these huge recruiting events to get so many of these players and coaches in the same place at the same time is also pretty amazing.

Travel ball does a lot of things right. We’ll be talking about a bunch of them in the coming days. But there is no doubt getting players in front of college coaches is right at the top of the list.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?