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FAQs About Youth Sports and Travel Teams

Travel Teams or Select Teams May Be an Option for Your Grandchildren

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Youth sports have changed tremendously during the lifetime of most grandparents. When we were kids, most sports were unorganized. We played lots of classic outdoor games, along with touch football and sandlot baseball. When our kids were old enough to get involved in sports, they most likely played on school teams, Little League teams or on teams sponsored by the YMCA or other organizations. Today many youth athletes play on what are known as select teams or travel teams. For grandparents in need of a crash course, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about select teams.

1. What is a select team?

A select team is one made up of better-than-average players who must try out to make the team.

2. What is a travel team?

A travel team is one that travels to compete with teams in other cities and towns. Most select teams are travel teams.

3. What is the cost of being on a select team or travel team?

Team members usually pay a fee to belong to the team and must purchase a uniform. The most expensive item is usually the cost of travel, especially since family members typically travel with the team member. Teams often sponsor fund-raisers or solicit donations to defray the cost of travel, but the cost of being on a select team can still hit a thousand or more dollars per year. In addition, select team members usually use more expensive equipment than those playing on a recreational team. Usually some scholarships are available.

4. What are the advantages or benefits?

Families who are involved in select teams or travel teams do spend a great deal of time together. The result is often closer bonds between family members. The higher level of competition means that the skills of the athletes also improve. For talented young athletes, participation in a select team can be a stepping stone to a spot on a college team or even a pro tryout. It is important to realize, however, that most players on select teams or travel teams will not go on to glory in college or in the pros.

5. What are the disadvantages of participation in a select team or travel team?

Besides the cost, the greatest disadvantage is the time commitment required from the young athlete and the athlete’s family. Of course, this disadvantage can become an advantage if all the family members enjoy the travel and the games. Still, the requirements of being on the team may keep families away from celebrations, church services and a host of other activities. Each family must decide where to draw the line.

6. What concerns do some have about participation in select teams or travel teams?

Parental misconduct is one of the most frequently cited concerns. The objectionable behavior may be a demonstration of poor sportsmanship toward the other team or verbal abuse of a player who makes a mistake. Coaches are also sometimes guilty of being too tough on team members. Some young athletes have difficulty handling the pressure of competition on this level.

7. Are there concerns about the physical well-being of the athletes?

Young people who play on select teams are sometimes pushed to specialize in a single sport and sometimes play that sport for much longer than a regular sports season. The results can include more frequent injuries and the possibility of becoming burned out on that sport

8. What does all of this mean for grandparents?

First, grandparents must realize that they are not decision-makers for their grandchildren. If their children and grandchildren make the decision to participate in select teams, the grandparents must support that decision. If it is possible for grandparents to travel to the games, they can share in the family and team camaraderie. If they cannot travel with the team, there are still lots of ways they can provide fan support for their grandchildren.

9. Is there a special role for grandparents?

Grandparents can help monitor the physical and mental well-being of their grandchildren. If a grandchild has a concern about team participation, he or she may feel more comfortable discussing it with a grandparent than with a parent, who may be more invested in the team’s success. The grandparent can then advise the parents if there is cause for concern.

10. What’s the most important question to ask about a select team or travel team?

Actually, there are two. Are the young players having fun? Do they seem to have a genuine love of the game? If both of these questions can be answered in the affirmative, chances are that all is well.
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