Whatever a child should play travel baseball and at what age they should begin playing travel is often a tough call for parents. Deciding to go the travel baseball route too early in a player's career can be detrimental to their desire to continue playing baseball in subsequent years. When anyone of the key factors listed below are missing, it may lead to unhappy ball players. Whereas, not playing travel soon enough can feel like a year wasted, it is usually not so serious because a player can try out the following year for travel ball. I believe a player's talent will come through in the end whether they play travel baseball or not. But when a child sees to be bored or not challenged at the in-house recreational league, it is time to consider playing travel baseball. Every travel team and community is different, but generally, travel baseball provides a higher level and more interested player. Also, baseball players who are around good players and are challenged correctly have the opportunity to improve their skills at a quicker rate.
There are four key things that can help determine when and if a kid should play travel baseball. The key things are listed in my order of prominence but the importance of each factor is a little different for each family, based on their particular situation.
1. Interest level – parents should talk to their child about travel ball and observe their actions when playing baseball to judge weather a child appears to have the added interest that travel ball requires. The decision to play should not be because the parent wants them to play.
2. Skill level – putting a player in a level they are not ready for is the quickest way to have them want to discontinue playing. Parents should check out travel ball player's skill level before tryouts, when possible. Asking for an outside opinion about their child's skill level from their previous season's coach may be helpful. Even having a player try out for a team – when they are obviously not ready for that level of play – can hurt a child's self-esteem and desire.
3. The coach – in my opinion, having a child play for a knowledgeable, well-respected coach is priceless. When parents hear of such a coach they should look into the possibility of their son playing for his team. Good coaches help players even beyond the playing field and serve as positive role models for kids.
4. Time commitment – meeting the demands of much more playing can be tough to balance while having kids stay involved in other activities, including non-sport related ones. It is never a good idea to have every hour of a kid's day and week scheduled, providing no free time for kids to just "hang out" with friends and family. Playing travel ball with more than one sport, when their seasons overlap, can cause this type of over-scheduling.
Of course, there are many other factors that may go into the decision to play travel baseball. Among those, a family's financial situation as well as the effect on other family members must be considered.