What’s Wrong with Travel Ball

Let’s continue our discussion about the importance and value of belonging to an organization. Now, as we have already discussed there are many different types of organizations ranging from small regional groups to very large national brands. As we discuss todays topic we’ll try to look at each idea from both perspectives as much as possible.

14. Organizations – What do you really get?

There is a very long list of things to discuss so I may not hit every topic you feel is worthy but I’ll do my best

  1. We’ll get better players! So this might be true in certain areas more than others but overall I really think a good coach is more likely to draw better players than just the name of an organization. Now, I get it, for some parents and players looking for a team they are likely to be drawn to a team name they recognize. So the brand might get them to try out but I don’t think it will get them to pick that team unless that team is well coached, has a very strong reputation or has a very successful track record. The name might get them there but it will not make them choose that team!
  2. We’ll get into better tournaments! Depending on the size and reputation of the organization this can both be true and it can also be an illusion. If you are the only team in an age group from a very strong organization then I do think you will get favorable treatment from some tournaments . If you are one of 25 or 30 teams in your age group in a mega organization with teams from all over the country then I think it’s an illusion. Some of the best or most recognized tournaments are very large but there is still a limited number of spots available. If a director already has several teams from one organization they are much more likely to look for some variety rather than having the situation I described in the earlier blog where I watched an entire pool of five Firecrackers teams playing each other. So for certain teams it will help for others it may even hurt.
  3. We’ll have built in relationships with college coaches! Recruiting is the heartbeat of travel ball. We’ve already discussed this in depth so we know the perceived leg up on recruiting is a big draw for some organizations. Again, when an organization has 20 or 25 teams in an age group how much do you really think the team name helps you with a college coach? Yes, if you playing on the flagship team from an organization which is highly recognized by college coaches to be where all the best players are playing then the team name does help. But we are talking more about the 20 ish other teams that joined the org hoping to draw college coaches just because they belong. In some cases, being a part of a huge organization could possibly hurt in recruiting because you have to convince the college coaches that you are on the “good” team in the organization. And when they see a lot of teams from an organization that are “not good” they get a little wary of which teams to follow.
  4. We have access to big name instructors and traveling coaches! Some of the biggest organizations do offer the opportunity to work with celebrity instructors. They sometimes have really well known founders or coaches that travel to do clinics or camps for teams in their organization. I’ve seen organizations run training days where they bring in college coaches to work with players. And, the cherry on the sundae, I’ve seen some very impressive, highly successful college coaches speak at team events. All of these things do happen with some organization but, certainly, not in all of them. And none of these things are really “free”. Whether it’s team fees or player dues the teams and players are paying for these “extra” events.
  5. We get really good deals on uniforms, equipment and sprit wear! Yes, you might, in some cases get what appears to be a deal on these things. Depending on the organization I would say you might be saving some real money and that is a great benefit. In others you are getting the “opportunity” to buy from them. In some cases, saving money and others, maybe not so much. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the people selling the items shouldn’t make some money from their efforts. I get it, it is their business but whether the “savings” is a benefit from the org or another kick back to the org is another discussion.
  6. Our players are really proud to play for ______! I understand that there is a certain amount of cache that goes along with some of the organizations. Once upon a time, I agree that playing for a certain organization did mean you and your team were something special. In some cases, it still is special, but in many others the bloom is really off the rose. I watch a lot of teams in big name organization uniforms that are not good, and in some cases really not good. So when you say you are a _______ it really comes down to are you on one of their “good” teams or not.

There are a lot of other topics that could be discussed but I think the point has been made. If you are one of the best teams in an organization, no matter the size, then being in that organization can be a great benefit. However, if you are just one of the masses, the 10th or 15th or 25th team in your age group in that organization then your benefits are much cloudier.

What I know for sure is this, the reasons we’ve mentioned that everyone thinks are why they should join an organization are not true across the board. Over time we will see more and more people realize that the name on the from of the jersey has value commensurate to the quality of your individual team. If you are a great team the brand is probably helping you. If you are an average or bad team and you think paying the organization is a good investment then you might need to reevaluate. One thing for sure, anyone who thinks an organization that has hundreds of teams from all across the country knows what each and every team is doing, how they are playing and, even, if they are representing their brand well is definitely looking through rose colored glasses.

My grandfather told me a lot of things as a young boy. Two of them really apply here; “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!” and “Buyer Beware!”. Please keep my grandfathers wisdom in mind!

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?