During the past 10 years or so tournament style baseball, or more popularly known as travel baseball, has quickly become a main stay in the culture of little league baseball. Nowadays it is not unheard of for a 12-year-old child to play over 80 games in a year. This has already and will continue to bring about negative influences and setbacks that could have been avoided.
Consistently playing a game where the “results” are emphasized as the main focus is a devaluing of sports development and an undermining of what is most natural and pure about baseball.
One positive that travel ball has to offer is playing experience. I have to admit that it is priceless but it can be acquired in other ways which I will go over soon. In the big scheme of things, a young player who is consistently competing in tournament style baseball, will experience positive benefits. These however, will undoubtedly be outweighed by the compounding negatives over the course of the young player’s baseball career while playing in travel baseball:
1. Doesn’t learn about the “Process” of the game
The majority of little league tournaments last no longer than a couple of days and mostly over the course of a weekend. Games are scheduled so that each team will have at least a chance to play each other once; given that the tournament is designed as a double header.
During the course of a league season, a player experiences the process of teamwork, makes adjustments throughout the week, and develops a relationship with the coach who’s sole intention is the welfare of each player.
In league baseball, a player will more than likely learn to value quality practice rather than the results of a game.
2. Coaches place very little importance on a kid’s development
It is no surprise that the majority of coaches in this culture of baseball have lost a lot of insight on what is most important. I don’t care how organized the tournaments are, how talented the kids are, or how experienced the coach is. When it comes to organizations dealing with the youth, that’s precisely what it should be about, the kids!
I have seen many times where coaches have put great expectations on their players often with very little vital feedback. Yes, even in the MLB. Since the tournaments are so short, the value is placed on tangible results such as making it to playoff rounds.
3.Coaching skills are poor
Another sad aspect of tournament ball is the lack of effective coaching. This isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault. You can give me nine players that have above average athletic ability and I’ll run the table against local teams. I’m sure my coaching decisions would be less polished as well.
Basically you could give my roommate(who has never played baseball), the Yankee’s lineup card, and I’m sure we could win a few games…right?
4. They forget to have fun
When I was younger, playing baseball was such a significant activity for me that I wanted to do it everyday. There wasn’t an adult conducting my decisions between the lines. I played for fun, and that was the key to my development.
I truly feel that a major part of my athletic development (hand-coordination, stamina, strength) came from playing stick ball every day over the course of a summer. The games were unorganized but very competitive!
5. Injuries increase
This is probably the most disappointing point concerning the negative aspects of tournament ball.
Injuries are sky high and it has a lot to do with the lack of moderation by tournament officials.
If a player pitches pitches a large amount of innings in a particular tournament and then pitches in another tournament, they are unaware of specific pitch counts of players and, in some situations, they don’t care.
Yea there are rules but are these rules really followed consistently? I’ve heard of many loop-holes and other malpractices which contradict the very existence of any tournament regulations in the first place.
When playing in a league, you know you’ll have some form of structure. Monitoring players (mostly pitch counts to avoid injuries which are already difficult enough to avoid in the first pace) will be much more effective.
The structure of league style baseball is catered to help players stay healthy.
6. Coaches don’t have the best intentions.
I have heard of parents who have gotten calls from coaches to have their kid fly over to play in a weekend tournament.
Does this coach really have the kid’s future in mind?
No, he just wants to win and is willing to do it with anyone who is “talented” enough to contribute. In a league, you will more than likely find a coach with commitment. This is every baseball parent’s dream.
I can’t deny the few benefits that competing against elite players in a weekend tournament provides but being a weekend warrior (a freelance/mercenary baseball player who plays for the teams with the best reputation) can only benefit a young player for so long before those pros begin to be outweighed by the cons.