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Have Your Say: What is the Right Age for Travel Ball?

As a major league ballplayer, Kevin Youkilis made a name for himself as “The Greek God of Walks,” blessed with a patient eye at the plate and enough power to make pitchers pay for their mistakes.

While it undoubtedly took a lot of hard work for Youkilis to make it to Major League Baseball, he doesn’t think that a year-round travel ball schedule is the answer for young players with big league dreams. Youkilis recently hit out on Twitter at travel ball for being unnecessary and potentially dangerous to kids.

Youkilis also proposed that travel ball only be an option for players over the age of 13. Does it make sense to mandate an age restriction or should we empower parents and coaches to make decisions on a case by case basis?

The benefits of travel ball are obvious: more practices and more games against good competition. It can allow an elite player to really hone his game in a crucible of baseball. But those things that make it great can also harm: overuse injuries, lack of a life outside baseball or softball, these things can cut short a promising career.

What’s your take?

Take 1: Times have changed; travel ball is for any age

Travel ballis an option. If kids don’t want to play at higher levels, they can play recreationally. But for kids who want to take baseball or softball seriously, and are good enough, the best way to do that is to start playing travel. It is the only way for kids to play meaningful games that will help them get better and develop. The games don’t get any easier over time; both baseball and softball only become more competitive and more intense. Playing games like that at an early age will help kids not be overwhelmed later.

There are ancillary benefits, too. Kids get to spend time on the road with their friends and form lifelong bonds. Kids get to see new places around their region or around the country, and parents get to share those memories as well. Travel ball might not be for everyone, but nobody should be discouraged.

Take 2: Let kids be kids

There are rapidly diminishing returns for kids playing travel ball at 8, 9 years old. Setting aside the concerns about injuries to young bodies for a moment, kids don’t yet have the skills to play at a high level. For how serious these games are, kids sometimes just can’t do what is asked of them and that can be discouraging and deflating.

Sports are  supposed to be fun. Let kids decide when they get older, if they’re good enough, if they want to think about making it a career. None of them are ready to decide that when they’re still in elementary school. There are better ways to develop players than asking them to devote their entire childhood to it.

So should travel ball be an option at all ages of youngsters? Or should it only be for older kids? Have your say in the comments below.

From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier

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Baseball, Softball, coaching advice, youth baseball, youth softball, Youth sports, coaching tips, baseball, softball