By Cammie Jones

Way back in the olden days (the 80s), you just didn’t hear about so many kids playing travel sports and if you did know someone, it was most likely a boy playing soccer. Times have certainly changed and today you see travel football, baseball, dance, cheerleading, volleyball, basketball and more.  It’s not just for guys anymore either – girls are just as heavily involved. As a parent how can you decide if playing a travel sport is best for your child, and, maybe more importantly, for your family?

PROS

Team Bonding

Making new friends off and on the field is very important to the success of travel sports. It’s always fun to play a team sport and work together with a common goal of winning but it is just as important for the team to get along off the field when they are not playing or in a competition.

Courtney Wier of Augusta and mother of a travel soccer player, says, “I believe that getting to know your teammates off the field helps you to communicate and understand each other on the field. Singing at the top of your lungs on the car ride or playing hide and seek in the Hampton Inn are always great ways to get to know each other.”

Promotes a Healthy Lifestyle

In order to be competitive, your child will have to be in top shape. This means they need to learn to eat right and stay hydrated. They are also more physically active as well with both weekly practices and competitions or games. This is a great foundation for buidling the healthy eating bug to continue on to their teens and beyond.

Parent Bonding

It’s not always just about the kids. This is a great way for the parents to make new friends as well. When you are on the sidelines of your child’s football or basketball game, the only familiar faces you see may be your team’s parents. This is an easy way to strike up a conversation with a mom or dad and enjoy the game with a new friend. Eating together as a team is also a good way to get to know each other. “It’s great to share a beer together by the hotel pool and recount the highs and lows of the weekend games,” adds Weir.

Seeing New Sights

Traveling out of town to places you have never been before is a great way to see what’s out there. Weir recently traveled to Atlanta for an early morning soccer game and was able to visit Six Flags over Georgia for an afternoon of family fun. When you are in between games and have a few hours of downtime, check out the town square, go shopping or visit a museum. Include the siblings and make a weekend out of it if your destination is in a location that sounds like fun for your family.  Make the most of your travel time.

Time Management

With two or three practices or more during the week, your child will have to manage her time wisely. Juggling school work, family time, hobbies and a social life while making time for practices will cause her to become quite an organized young lady.  We all know time management is key even as your child gets older, attends college and enters the working world.

Being a Team Player

If your team is good or just average, being a team player is key to the success of the season. There may not be many subs on the teams so this makes is even more crucial that your child attend almost every practice and game. There may be different skill levels as each player has his strengths and weaknesses. This may be frustrating for your child, but these are all character building traits that will help your child in the long run. Being part of a team with various personalities and skill sets allows them to really know what it means to be a team player.

CONS

Time Commitment

Travel sports will take up a lot of your free time. From weekly practices to traveling out of town for the day, overnight or for the weekend, the time involved is a major factor to consider when deciding whether or not to play.  It’s not just difficult for the player but for the entire family. If you don’t have good friends or family in your hometown who can take care of your other children when you are away, then one of the parents will have to stay behind or every weekend is a family weekend.  Note the dates of the practices and tournaments or performances and compare it to your personal calendar before you commit.

Cost

Needless to say, the cost involved in travel sports can be hefty. Here are some costs that need to be considered along with your family’s budget:

– Cost of playing on the team (tournament costs, etc)

– Equipment, uniform, costume costs

– Cost of hotels and gas

– Food, beverage expenses

The actual travel costs can be alleviated if you have someone on the team with whom you can trade off travel. Share a hotel room or send your child with another family if you know them well enough. Then take your turn for the next out-of-town tournament. Stay with friends or family if you are going to a town in which you have personal connections. Pack a cooler with food and drinks so you don’t have to go out for every meal. Sign up for hotel rewards packages that allow you to gain points or get discounts at various hotels. There are many ways to cut corners here and there with some pre-planning on your part.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

If your child has FOMO – fear of missing out – you may want to make sure that he or she is okay with missing some weekend activities and parties with their friends. No one wants to miss out, especially teenagers, so the sacrifices that come with travel sports for your child may deter them from truly making the commitment. Make sure your child is aware of any upcoming social events that they may not make it to because of travel.

Pressure to Perform

I have spoken to some parents who say playing a travel sport stressed their child out to the point that they no longer desired to play the sport.  There does come pressure to perform when you play at this caliber. As a parent, make sure that your child will take this pressure and make it a positive “peer pressure” versus a way to make them feel intimidated or less than. You know your child best and what works and doesn’t work for them when it comes to this so use your best judgment.

Whatever you decide regarding playing or not playing a travel sport, just make sure that everyone is on board with the decision.  If you do give it a go, give it 100 percent and stay positive throughout the season.  Playing on a travel team has many benefits that will stick with your child and with you for years to come.

This article appears in the July 2017 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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