What’s Wrong with Travel Ball?

Let’s continue the recruiting portion of the discussion with:

6. Pressure on players to begin the recruiting process too early.

Quick history lesson for everyone. My last few years of coaching, recruiting had gone completely off the rails, where college coaches were recruiting and offering scholarships to 14 year olds all the time. This craziness created a bunch of new rules that slowed the recruiting process down to where we are now. The NCAA rules forbid a college coach from having formal recruiting discussions with a player before September 1st of their junior year in high school. So there has been some positive movement to reduce the pressure on young players and their parents. But there are no rules in the world of travel ball “except buyer beware” and “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”! Wait, those aren’t rules, those are just common sense and you all know what I think about the gap between common practice and commons sense. But let’s get back on track.

Which leads to the reason for this blog. The assumption is pretty clear that if you want to be one of the players who gets a phone call and offer on September 1st of your junior year in high school then you needed to do a whole bunch of stuff way before that date. You’ve been working hard at doing everything you needed to do to have already convinced that college coach that they can’t live with out you! Which, of course, means years before your junior year.

So how does a player convince the college coaches that they are the player they need to recruit on September 1st? Just like the young players back in the early recruiting days, they need to attend camps, play in all the right showcases, join the right travel team, play for the right travel ball coach and start all this stuff well in advance of their junior year. Which means that, while the college coach can’t talk to you until September 1st of your junior year, players need to have already made a huge impression.

Okay, so I get it, you’re thinking this isn’t really a travel ball problem its a recruiting problem, right? Remember in the first installment of this series that we assume that the primary motivator for most families to play travel ball to begin with is to get recruited to play in college. So when you keep that in mind it really is a travel issue. Especially when an awful lot of travel ball programs are selling themselves and the conduit you have to have to make the connection with the college coach.

You’ve all seen and heard about the travel ball coach who is trying to convince a player to join their team. Usually under a tree or in the parking lot of a tournament where a player in a different uniform is talking to a travel ball coach of the new team they “have to” join if they want to get recruited. The promises flow about the connections we have, the history of all our former players who got recruited, the showcases we’ll play in, the power pools we have access to, the college team camps we’ll attend and on it goes. Now all those things sound great until you realize that many of these sales pitches are being made to 12 and under players and parents. Which is why this really is a travel ball issue…

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?