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Maximizing the Travel Ball Experience

Playing on a travel team can be overwhelming and intimidating, especially for a first-year player. Practices that might have been once or twice a week on a local team increase to three times a week or more. The intensity of practices are usually higher, with very little down time.

Once the initial excitement of making a team wears off, the next challenge is the level of competition.

“On a rec team, you may have one, two, three guys that are pretty good on the other team,” said Chance Beam, president of Titans Sports Academy in Marietta, Georgia. “If you’re playing high-level travel, it’s a hard fight to get through 1-6 of the opposing lineup.”

Travel ball doesn’t have to be painful. Beam believes offseason conditioning can play a crucial role in preparing both mind and body to face a higher workload.Even tournaments can seem daunting. Weekends that were once dedicated to household chores or family time are almost completely full of games, with as many as three each day. This can go on for weeks at a stretch. A player’s body begins to feel the physical wear and tear of increased activity it hasn’t previously been exposed to.

“The problem I see with (rec) teams is they don’t really prepare the arms especially,” he said. “When they go inside, they don’t throw as much as they do on the days they’re outside. So, if you have poor weather over a couple of weeks, they don’t get in the amount of throwing they really need to play that many games.”

Parents should certainly take an active role in the process, Beam said. Are your end goals the same as your child’s? Find out what is being taught by the coach to make each player better, how he conducts practices and offseason conditioning. It’s important the team environment is an ideal fit for a player’s mindset and skill level.

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A common assumption is that teams travel all over the country throughout the entire season. This isn’t always the case, Beam explains. It depends on where you live. Most tournaments are scheduled several months in advance, so parents should get that information as soon as possible. This makes the planning process easier for the entire family.

The price of concessions is a major concern for many parents. Beam recommends checking ahead of time if you’re allowed to bring your own food. If you’re packing meals or snacks for your child, make sure he has a proper nutritional balance and plenty of liquids to keep him hydrated.

“We don’t allow our guys to eat junk food, carbonated drinks or those types of things at tournaments,” Beam said. “I believe what you put in is what you get out. So, it’s fruit, power bars, it’s water.”

Never underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep during travel season. According to Beam, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are the most important nights of rest before a weekend tournament. If a player sleeps poorly one night, he might wake up the next morning feeling fine, only to discover he’s dragging the next day.

Finally, Beam recommends mom, dad, and player have a family conference and make sure everyone is on the same page. Ask what you each hope to gain from the experience. How will the car ride home after a game be handled? Are you prepared for failure, or the rigors of a travel season? Families who get too caught up in the excitement of travel ball without thoroughly investigating how the process works will have quite a shock once the initial enthusiasm wears off.

“Having an open, honest conversation on the front end will allow (you) to choose the team that’s the right fit,” Beam explained.” 

From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr.

Baseball, Baseball Player Development, Baseball Tips & Drills