There is a rising movement, gaining momentum across the land for children to leave their high school teams and go off to play on an “elite” travel team. These teams which cost thousands of dollars to play on have a very flawed premise, in my opinion.

            Talk to the children that have gone through this process, and I have, you will hear a story much different than the glory and fame it is supposed to provide. In one interview on my website you will hear a young man describe what he went through, the injuries he suffered and the time away from his classmates in high school, and how his family is having quite dilemma on whether or not to send the youngest sibling through hat same process and journey.   
            Remember, every player on this travel team is trying to get better to go to ANOTHER higher level team so the atmosphere is ripe for cliques and innuendos. You add the financial pressure the money brings to the table and that certainly does not seem to me to be an atmosphere rich in positives and life skill development. You spend a lot more time as an adult getting along with people than you do competing with them.
             In High School, they are just your friends you hang out with. You can play pickup games in any sport with them just to have fun. PLAY FOR FUN!
            These organizations are under the assumption, all the while making a profit, that people will buy into the thought process that the better team you play on, the better the chances are that your son or daughter will receive a Division I athletic scholarship. That, in my opinion, is simply not true for the VAST majority of the children who play on these teams.
            The coaches I have seen wear their gear everywhere inviting recognition and status to their particular team and organization. By adding a name or an affiliation with a professional sports team they entice people to drink the Kool aid, and follow, like lemmings to the cliff, with a notion of grandeur, attention, status, and financial rewards.
            Stats don’t lie, only one percent of all the kids who go to college play at the Division I level and only half of them ply for free. Many get no athletic SCHOLARSHIP money whatsoever.
             Since I am not a “gotcha” guy, and my company Frozen Shorts is not a company looking to expose any one person or organization, I will analyze the facts, as to what is going on currently with the youth sports paradigm, interpret them for you and explain the consequences of the actions taken for the long term best interests for the children playing youth sports, or the lack thereof.
            Let’s start with the premise that the better the team you play on the better the competition you will play, the better you will get. This is simply not true, in my opinion. Let me explain why. It is a false premise and therefore it will have a false conclusion.
            This team you are on has to have tuition, love that new word, to lay on the team. The coaches get paid the organization gets paid, and by whom? YOU! So, it is in their best interests to keep the money rolling in. There is also the problem as to the other teams you play. What if they don’t recruit the same quality of players that your teams as? What if they have players that are much better? Am I supposed to believe that traveling 500 miles to win or lose 2-1 is better for your development than playing on a local team and losing or winning by the same score? What if there is a blow out? How is that competitive? If I traveled 500 miles to play a game in an “elite” team concept and the game was a blowout either way I would not for a minute think that was great competition.
            The Ivy League colleges are great colleges. But if your child does not have the grades or the family does not have the finances to afford and Ivy League education or simply does not fit in to that life style on campus does that mean he or she will not end up in life with a better education, better job, better marriage, better family, than those who attend there that don’t have a family history of tremendous financial wealth? You see it’s not just playing at a perceived higher level, it’s the FIT! It’s the makeup of the team and the character of the players and COACHES.
             I have heard of one of these teams requiring the parents to sign a contract even before their child tries out that they will agree to play for the team. Let me explain that little ditty. Why would a team or organization do that? Well, in my opinion, and it is an educated one, the reason is simple. Children were trying out for the team to judge how good they were against others trying out at that level, realized that it wasn’t all that much better than what they already doing and declined the invitation to play on the team. This was their way of keeping talent because they were sick of calling players to tell them that they had made the team and having the players decline to play for them.
            I have also heard of teams and organizations that will not allow the children who play on their teams play any other sport. Their mantra of more is better is quite flawed in my opinion. I am also personally aware through my research and data that it is not healthy for a child to play one sport year round. It is that plain and simple. So how can something that is unhealthy for you. Turn out to be a positive? Oh wait; you want the exception to prove the rule. False premise false conclusion.
             MOST of the Olympic athletes played multiple sports. Most great athletes understand that there are TREMENDOUS advantages to the by playing multiple sports. First, you give your muscles and MIND a rest from doing the same thing over and over. Secondly absence does make the heart grow fonder. Third, you meet and play with different kids in different sports where you might not be the best player on that team in that sport. That teaches you humility and sharing. It also exposes you to different styles of coaching and interaction with different adults.
            Let us say this team gathers players from different communities, which they do, in a couple hundred mile radius. The very fact that a lot of these children have to travel a hundred miles or so during the week just to practice when they could be studying is a detriment to their long term development. Next there is the physical wear and tear of practicing, the stress of driving back and forth a couple times a week over an extended period of time, and the time sitting in a car that can only decrease the ability of the mind and the body to recover.
            Now there certainly is the argument that many children have done this to achieve greatness. We have all heard of the family who flew across the country so there son or daughter could play on an elite team, and by doing so achieved a Division scholarship or eventually a professional contract. What you don’t see is how MANY others do this that you don’t hear about, and fail. The FACTS states that way more children and families have followed this path and come up empty than have achieved a full ride Division I scholarship.
So why isn’t that fact a prominent part of the recruiting process for these teams and organizations? Could it be that so many people and organizations are making money for the unsuspecting families that they simply don’t want the gravy train to stop?
            The money the families spend, for the most part far exceeds the amount of financial aid scholarship money. So now we are down to the nitty gritty of this whole youth sports elite travel evolution. Ego and money. The people are being led into believing, and let’s make sure I am clear on this, they want to believe, that writing a check will buy you talent and therefore that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the Division I scholarships.
            Look, the more rested you are the better you will play. The less outside negative stress you have surrounding your team and the players on it the better you ill play. The more positive reinforcement you get form teammates coaches and parents the better you will play, and the better you will get. Now if you think those characteristics are exclusive to an “Elite’ travel team, than my book and philosophy are not for you. However if you are in the vast majority of people who are questioning this new mantra that more is better, I thank you for listening and I hope you will consider buying my book Stop the Tsunami in Youth Sports and let’s get back to the premise that playing youth sports for fun is the most basic sound fundamental reason to have our children be health both physically and mentally now and in the future.