Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Travel/College Development Ball...A High School Coach's Perspective

RT Staff Note: Every year, message boards nationwide always discuss the cost, necessity and role of travel ball teams. One of those boards is our personal favorite High School Baseball Web. One of the most honest and reasonable contributors to HSBW is Coach May. We e-mailed him for permission to re-print one of his posts. As a High School Coach, he brings a very refreshing perspective to the benefits and added value of travel ball. Enjoy!

In my community there is one rec league. They have teams from 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-15 and 16-18. There are around 400 kids that play in this rec league in any given year. All of these players attend the same Middle School and High School.

The five 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12 leagues are full every year. The 13-15 and 16-18 struggle to have 5 teams each year. The league has around 400 kids playing in it each year. Each year we (our High School Team) have around 10-15 freshman come out for baseball. I do not believe these guys leave the game because of travel ball. They leave the game because they move on to other things that are just more fun to them.

When they get to HS for the first time in many of their lives they have to compete to make the team. Many have never had to compete for a jersey in anything in their life. Some have never had to compete for anything in their life. They are told that they can not miss a practice and they have to be on time. They are on the field with players that are so much better than them it is intimidating to say the least. They bring a rec ball mentality to the ball field around serious baseball guys and it just does not mix. You already know what can happen to these guys when they find themselves in this type of situation.

Players move on. Some love it , breathe it , sleep it and want to be the best they can be. Some just want to play some ball if its "FUN" and then move on to something else. And some are not going to put any work into a "game". Add in Cars , Girls and all the other things that are coming into their focus at these ages.

Travel baseball started because some peoples kids wanted more than the local rec league afforded. Some wanted to get better coaching than the local rec league afforded. Some wanted to compete at a higher level than the local league afforded them. Some kids get frustrated by not having but one practice a week for one hour and half that time is taken up in the parking lot walking up to the field and half the kids don't even show up.

I know one thing a lot of people are spending a whole lot more than I ever had to spend on showcase baseball. The cost was $500.00 if you made the team. The tourneys were all in state except for East Cobb and Jupiter. Instead of going to the coast or the lake for vacations we just did baseball because that's what our kids wanted to do. We sacrificed some things to allow our kids to have some things they wanted to do. The other kids did as well. Instead of working at baseball and being good at it they decided they would rather hang out with friends , go to the lake , go to the coast , have a ATV etc etc. My kids got new bats and new gloves. Their friends got ATV's and fancy clothes.

If the local league does not provide for your son what he is looking for in the game and then a parent decides to go find it for him I don't have any problem with it. No more than I would have a problem with a kid moving from a public HS to a private HS to get a better education if that school did in fact provide a better education.

I tried the local league thing. I just got tired of kids that did not want to practice. Showed up late for practice and then the parents got mad when you said something to them. "We don't want to burn him out. After all coach its just a game. And we have other things in our life we do." Yeah I know its tough to make a practice each week. And I got tired of the better players being penalized for being better. The hard throwers strike zone was legit. The kid that couldn't get it to the plates strike zone was huge. On and on I could give examples of why some people move on.

I believe that if your son is a kid that is very competitive and really loves the game you need to get him in an environment with like minded players. If he is better its probably because when he is at home he is wanting to throw , catch and hit and someone is taking the time to do it with him. When you put these kids in a league with players that are bored by the game , don't want to practice , can not catch or throw it just doesnt mix. It does not hurt the kids that can not play and do not have the desire to get better. It hurts the ones that do.

The best thing IMO you can do as a parent if your child wants to be the best he can be and loves the game is get him around coaches that want to teach and love the game. And get him around players that feel like him about the game. If not he will not have any fun. And he will be frustrated. And I do not believe he will reach his full potential.

When people say "If he had played rec ball he would have still been the player he is today." How do you know? I believe you are wrong. Why? Because the players that I have had in HS over the years that have been my best players and my players to get scholleys have been the ones that got very good coaching before they got to HS. They were the ones that played at a high level before coming to HS. The other ones were playing catch up for four years. When you are used to hitting legit pitching and facing legit hitters all the way up to HS you are not overwhelmed by the competition.

I have guys that are out classed by 75 mph fastballs in JV games. Then I have guys that it is just plain meat to them. On and on I could go. Rec Ball is the problem not the players who seek out the best baseball. The fact is there are two types of players. Rec Ball minded players and players that want to compete , learn and be the best they can be. The fact is they do not mix. And they never will.

Are there guys that have played rec ball and moved on to being great baseball players? Of course there are. The thing is they are few and far between. And they will continue to be few and far between. The the gap will continue to widen. It does not take any money to get out in the yard and work at the game. It does not take any money to get better at baseball. It takes a desire and a work ethic. That can not be bought. The thing is the players that are giving up their weekends and sacrificing to play travel ball are the ones with the desire and work ethic.

It kills me when I hear someone say "We just can not afford to do it its just too expensive." Yeah but that Lexus sure is nice. And that ATV sure is nice. How was your vacation at the coast? And man that sure is a nice car you just bought your son. Wow those rims are killer dude. Nice stereo system Jimmy! Yeah its just too expensive when its really not that important.

My rooms are free when I travel. My meals are too. I make sure any kid that can not truly afford to play in fact plays. They stay with me. I hook them up with what they need. I find someone to give up some cash for the ones that need it. No one is going to be turned down. If you want something you can find a way to get it. The fact is parents will do what they have to do if its important enough to their kids. Could it be its just not important enough to the kid? Too many excuses for me.

My son cut grass during the summer to pay his way to every PG event he ever went to. He weed eated and put up hay for the neighbors. I have not cut the grass in years. No, you want it find a way to make it happen. I tell all my players if you want to go call me. You want to go to a showcase and Pops won't foot the bill what are you doing to pay for it? You can get those CD's right? You can take that sweety on that date right? You can pay for that prom right? No, cut the BS son...you don't want it bad enough.

I know many here will say "Coach May is a nut." Well I am. But I keep it real. All I know is a person that really wants something will find a way to make it happen. And when people see that he is doing everything he can do to make it happen they will step in and help him make it happen.

The problem today is people want someone to give it to them. Rec ball players are doing exactly what they want to do. Other players are going to do what they have to do.

OK I'm done. Bash the hell out of me. I can take it. It will not be the first or the last time that's for sure.

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