Why travel basketball may not be the right choice for you at the moment

As the travel basketball seasons for grade school players kicks off with several tryouts already in the month of October, I felt compelled to provide some much needed advice for prospective parents and young players alike interested in the next level of competition. This doesn't apply to every player but I feel there are more players than not that fall into the category which I am speaking of.

There is no doubt that popularity of basketball in our area has grown tremendously over the last 7+ years or so. It seems as every boy and girl wants to play basketball not just any basketball but TRAVEL basketball. Travel teams in Palm Beach County are plenty, where every kid plays on a travel team and if they are not on a travel team they are looking to find one. Unfortunately not every situation is a good situation and not every player should be playing travel basketball at a given time.

Here's a scenario. You or your child attends a travel basketball tryout. The team you are trying out for is already established, has several players returning from their team last year and is really only looking to add 3 maybe 4 players max to the roster. You make the team but may not get a lot of playing time because 1.) he/she has no real game experience 2.) the coaching staff is going to play proven players they are familiar with especially in close games 3.) you are not ready skill wise at that moment to play at a competitive level

Here's another scenario. You attend a travel basketball tryout for a team that was not very good in previous years or is brand new, perhaps a break-off from another team. They have a 1 maybe 2 very good players but are looking to fill their roster to begin tournament play. In this scenario you make the team and are also one of the better players. Playing time will be high, although the team overall is not very good and is over matched in most tournaments they play in. Your team loses regularly by 40 maybe 50 points every game. After a couple months of this players, coaches and parents are struggling to keep going and the game is no longer fun for anyone..

In both scenarios the parent has already spent anywhere from $300 to $1,000 on club fees, not to mention money for new shoes, extra gear, tournament admission fees, gas and maybe hotel cost. It's easy to rack up over $2,000 in a short time. Now, was that $2,000 or so worth it? Did you or your child get better? Did they learn the fundamentals of the game? Did they get in game experience? And last but not least will they be ready to make their high school team when the time is right? Only time will tell but there is another scenario that may provide better results and better prepare you or your child when high school comes around.

Instead of spending several thousand dollars in a travel team you or your child may not be ready for, one option would be for the player to spend time with a trainer, practicing and learning the fundamentals of the game. Dribbling, shooting, footwork etc. Next instead of multiple travel basketball games every weekend where your player may receive less than 5 minutes of actual court time, sign them up for a rec league where they can get some actual game experience, get comfortable playing games, make mistakes and learn from them. Set a goal to make their middle school team. The great thing about middle school basketball is it's a mix of ages, so for a 6th or 7th grader its a big challenge to make a team when gong against better 7th and 8th graders. And for an 8th grader it's a good barometer to see if they are ready for high school. If you struggle to make your middle school team as an 8th grader you have to work that much harder before high school starts.

Contrary to what you may hear, travel basketball is not the be all end all. A player can still be successful in high school if they don't play travel at younger ages as long as they take the necessary steps. Skill development, training, game play and pickup games are essential in accomplishing this goal. Parents need to be realistic, analyze the situation, make sure your child will come out of the travel season better than when they started. If not, save your money. Reassign it to things that can make them a better player. In the end they will enjoy the game more and perhaps have a better shot at reaching their long term goals.

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