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Question for this esteemed group of baseball people:

My nephew is 12, almost 13. He's played on a travel team for the past few years that rarely wins. Great group of kids and families. They are all close friends. The coach is excellent. Many of the players are just not developing despite good efforts from the coach. Many lack the athletic ability and view it as more of a fun activity instead of a game they are looking to play in HS or college.

The kids do not seem to mind the losing all that much. Sure, they aren't happy to lose but they move on quickly even after an 0-4 weekend at a tournament where they get beat up pretty good. The kids really love the game and being together despite the lack of success.

My nephew has talent. He's blessed with size and runs well. He's finishing up 7th grade, so he has one more year then HS. If you were scouting him you would definitely say he's "projectable" to be at the very least an very good HS player. He also plays on his middle school team, which is decent but the coaching is lacking. He's playing a good amount of baseball and loves the game.

Sorry for the rambling but here's my question:  Should we find another travel team for him that is more competitive so he can be around better players?  Will playing in a more competitive environment prepare him better for HS ball?

Or leave it alone and let him continue to play with his friends?

Views: 295

Comment by darryl morhardt on May 6, 2016 at 2:23pm


IMO  winning should not be a major consideration of the development of your nephew. he should go where ever makes him the best player he can be. Parents worry about AAU teams records and think that translates to their child improving , when he moves on in baseball no one will ask ,nor care, what his AAU team did,our his middle school teams record was, what is his sixty time ,does he hit the ball to all fields, does he command his fastball, does he get good reads in the outfield , Can he get a lead and steal a base,ect..

Now having said that , being around  competitive people and being around better players does have its advantages..They maybe be more dedicate,instill more work ethic, better attitude,smarter player ,these traits demonstrated by one's peers may have positive effect on your nephew.

i would watch  any other teams I maybe interested in joining  in action. I would watch them   play and how they interact with each other and the coaches and see if its an atmosphere for GROWTH both in skills and attitude.

Comment by Octavio Rodriguez on May 6, 2016 at 2:35pm

I am a former high school coach and I stopped coaching because I saw that the teams that I had trusted to develop me son were similar to what you are writing about.  I did my research and had my son try out with the best teams possible.  He was asked to play on all the ones that he tried out for and after one year I saw that he was not advancing as he had when I was able to coach him in in house.  I have always had a rule with my boys that they can start playing travel when they are 10U.  Before that its a waste of money and time and if you are not on with a good coach you will have daddy baseball being played.  I always look at it this way if you are good at something but dont challenge yourself you end up having a looser mentality.  You start to accept it and you are okay with it which is what that team seems to resemble.  If the other boys on the team are not going to be as the same level as your son, he will not know what winning is all about.  Teams that win a lot know how to win and play harder because they expect to win.  After I started coaching my son's team I only have 4 good players and with the good players we would be able to compete during league and tournaments.  This year I have 9 out of the 12 that are going to play in high school and just like your son my son will be a freshmen fall 2017.  Him playing on a competitive team and having players of his ability has created a confidence in him and a work ethic that has helped push him to be one of the most well known hitters and pitchers in our area. 

If he is not going to be playing with them in high school why waste a year of development that will benefit him.  High school coaches know who the players are because of how they carry themselves, how the hit the ball, field the ball and throw the ball.  You need to do what is best of your son but ask questions about types of tournaments and practice time.  I know that in my area there are a few teams that pick tournaments they can win or finish in top 3.  These organizations advertise their brand of baseball as being competitive but no offense why get into tournaments that beat up on teams like that one you are on?

Have him with others that will push him to be better and you will see him do things he would never have been able to do.

Comment by Mike Greene on May 6, 2016 at 2:53pm

Grant, if developing and getting better aren't priorities, then why are the kids playing travel ball? Not to sound harsh, but if they are looking for social time there are a lot of ways to cover it without it costing parents a lot of money. If the coach is excellent, the players should grow and develop just through normal practices. By the time these young men to get 7th grade they should know if they want to actually play ball or just hang out. I have coached 6th - 9th graders for 20 years. I fully understand the two groups: 1.) Serious ballplayers or 2.) Social group. These two are as different as night and day.

If your nephew really wants to play ball and learn, then he needs to be challenged. Without challenge there can be no improvement. To find the challenge and development, your nephew will probably have to find a different team to join. If he wants to continue to do the social thing, then let me enjoy himself. The split in the road is here and he needs to make a decision.

I wouldn't push winning or hardware to anyone at this age. But development is a completely different story. I challenge all of our guys at their levels to improve to the next level, whatever their next level is. Not all will go on to play high school ball. Some will go on to play in college. It is up to the individual player and what they want from the game. BUT, all players need to be challenged to improve, no matter what level they want to reach.

Comment by Kip Gross on May 6, 2016 at 7:05pm
My answer is pretty simple and in the form of a question ... What does your son want?
Comment by Grant Clifford on May 6, 2016 at 11:03pm

Thanks everyone. Very helpful.

Mike-  I think these kids are playing travel ball because everyone plays travel these days.

It's my nephew so I'm just trying to provide some guidance to him. He's a very laid back kid and would be perfectly fine staying with his current team. I suppose there are bigger problems in the world than being loyal to your team, but I really do think he could blossom into a quality player if surrounded by a more competitive group of kids.

So far it's just a discussion between me and his parents. In a month or so when the season ends he and his parents will discuss things and they will ask his opinion. If he asks for my opinion, I will tell him to move to a different team. He can do that, get better baseball and still remain friends with his former teammates.

Comment by Grant Clifford on May 6, 2016 at 11:06pm

Kip-  To answer your question, I don't think he wants anything different. He's such a nice kid that I think he would feel as if he was abandoning his friends if he changed teams. His Dad has talked to his coach about it and his coach thinks he'd benefit from being on a more competitive team even if that means the coach loses his best player.  I thought that showed the coach is a good guy and not just interested in his own agenda.

Comment by Kip Gross on May 6, 2016 at 11:44pm
Grant, that is a good coach for saying that. The reason I said what I said is because there are way too many parents out there that want for their kids instead of the kid wanting what he wants. I see it all of the time. My daughter played rec softball because that's all she ever wanted. Then came high school and she could have played college softball but she never wanted that. Instead she's getting A's and working on getting on with her life. My son is a freshman on my high school team but I've never even once tried to tell my son where he should play or what to play for that matter. He plays it because he enjoys it.

What amazes me is almost every high school game that we play there are parents yelling at their kids from the stands or even worse from right behind the screen. Never good yelling as you can imagine. I'll never understand that!!!
Comment by Robin Cox on May 7, 2016 at 11:03am

If  your  son/nephew loves the game,is highly motivated,( I mean eats and sleeps baseball) and he really is talented, have him try out with other teams....I mean very high quality teams ..ask the local high school coach who the best are.

I see far too many parents projecting how good their sons are and they end up wasting years instead of trying to find where their sons are really gifted and talented. 

Yes its ok to keep playing for the fun...but parents need to keep a reality check on their own desires.


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