Differences between “Recreational” and “Travel” baseball

Little League Champs

The main differences can be explained as follows:

1) Recreational Baseball – (Little League, PAL, Babe Ruth, Pony, etc.) 

  • Usually requires an open registration and combines all levels of playing skill.
  • Teams are usually comprised of playing rosters, based on lottery or draft picks.
  • Coaches may be volunteers who possess average or limited knowledge of the game.
  • Players are guaranteed playing opportunity, no matter what level of skill they may possess.
  • Rules are designed to spread equal time, opportunity and safety to all.
  • All players are usually rewarded at the end of the season just for participating.
  • Participation, effort and fun are highly encouraged.

2) Elite Travel Baseball – (TBS-USA, USSSA, ECTB, NJBL, FABL, Triple Crown, AAU, USTSA, etc.)

  • Usually requires individual competitive tryouts and costly, individual expenses. 
  • Players are usually selected based primarily on their playing ability. 
  • Coaches are usually paid for with above average coaching experience.
  • A player’s playing time is usually based on production or experience. 
  • Rules are usually mirrored towards High School, College or Pro rules.
  • In Travel Baseball, usually… only championship teams receive trophies.
  • Winning is fun.

Travel Baseball (AAU, USSSA, etc.) is considered by its design as a higher level of competition, compared to what your traditional, recreational leagues provide. There are several factors, which make these two situations very different from one another. Ideally, coaches would like for parents and players to have a clear understanding of their differences, prior to deciding which of these forums is best suited for them (as a family).

Within the “Travel Ball” environment, the player is no longer sheltered from the possibility of failure or lack of participation. One of the lessons parents learn when they’re first exposed to this competitive baseball concept is that there’s a chance that their egos may be crushed. If parents are not careful, what ends up happening more often than not, is that their son may be left behind. Parents quickly forget that they’ve placed their child in a “competitive environment” and assume that he’ll be OK, while maintaining the same level of skill, simply by attending a team practice. Many parents will rarely associate their limited involvement, with the fact that their son may be struggling or underachieving in his performance on the field.

It’s very important to maintain the same work ethic and commitment that finally earns a player an opportunity to play on a travel team, but it also requires the same intensity to be spread out throughout the entire season. Most coaches agree that when there’s a lack of interest from the parents or the players, they limit the time that they spend at developing their skills, which will most certainly begin to affect a player’s performance on the field. In a competitive environment, someone else is always there waiting, someone who’s willing to work harder to take a place on the playing field!

Many of the successful families who make the commitment to take part in Travel Baseball, also know that their child cannot simply show up for a team practice and be expected to excel or improve within the one-two hour practice held by his team coach. Players and parents may find additional ways to stay sharp by seeking a private instructor, visit the batting cages regularly, attend baseball camps or clinics or design rigid baseball drills of their own, until they meet once again with the team coach.

These players are usually “self-motivated”, dedicated to improving their own game, regardless of the team’s skill level. They also possess a strong desire to compete. Their parents are dedicated to providing them with whatever tools are necessary to help the athlete reach a high level of success. The parents also become part of the “complete package”. Too often, a coach has a player on his roster that’s not worth the trouble that the parents add to the team. A coach would much prefer having the nice parents of an average player than an above average player with uncooperative parents. Supportive parents are always welcome!

Lastly, a coach hopes that parents always remember that when they expose their child to a competitive environment like Travel Baseball is… it is the family’s responsibility to make sure their player maintains a high level of motivation and skill, along with maintaining the dedication required to follow thru with the commitment! They should NEVER forget that as parents, nobody ever puts a gun to their heads and says that they must have their son playing travel baseball! When their son is selected and finally given an opportunity to play, the parents agree to the conditions and terms set forth by this competitive environment. Parents can’t simply decide to change the rules and conditions as they go to suit their personal need. Ultimately, their own child suffers for it! Travel baseball is designed to compete and bring out the highest level of competition from our players. Because of this, parents choose to expose their child to failure or disappointment at any time, not the coach! The best part of it all is that the good times are much more rewarding when we ultimately expose our children to one of the biggest lessons in life… When you work hard… and succeed… it feels very rewarding! It’s much like real life, itself!

About Josh Fitzgerald

Enjoying life and Baseball. Playing For Team Usa San Diego,Australia 2012. Represent USA

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