A few weeks ago, my friend Rich Trujillo asked me what has travel ball done to the family? Rich just retired this last year as the head softball coach at La Mirada High School, where he had been at the helm for seventeen years.
I think back to when my daughter played travel ball. I remember that there were times where I questioned our schedule as we were missing Sunday after Sunday from our church. Part of me didn’t worry too much as my daughter still was active in the youth group. But I still wondered if there wasn’t a better way. A few teams we were on tried to give the team off one weekend per month.
This week I’ve talked to two other travel coaches who said they give their teams one weekend off each month. This is not just a religion thing either. The coaches on my daughter’s first team were Catholic. Catholics usually have many more options as far as attending mass. As Lutherans we were primarily a Sunday option. But even if you do not attend church at all, there can still be time for your families. For us it wasn’t a big deal there since we only have the one daughter. But for families who have three or four children, especially if their ages are close together, this can be a challenge too.
I spoke with one coach this last week who said his one daughter had been invited to join a travel team. They declined at this time because he has another younger daughter and a son who plays a different sport. I’ve seen families where Mom is taking one of the kids to one tournament, Dad taking another kid to their sport, etc.
Lastly there is another reason to have some time off. Our bodies need healing. Any sport can take a toll on our bodies. So much more so with our kids who’s joints may not be fully developed yet. The body needs time to rest. Studies have shown that not giving our athletes time to rest and recover leads to more overuse injuries. And if you ignore those, you are going down the path to more severe injuries, even career ending injuries.
So let me issue a challenge to all travel and club coaches, regardless of sport. I challenge you, if you are not already doing so, set your schedules so that your team can take a weekend off each month. I know that, for example, with softball July-August can be tough to take that weekend off because you have all the national tournaments and showcases happening. But even there, one weekend off might just keep your players healthy enough to make a difference when it really counts.
Parents, this also goes out to you. It’s also up to you to let your child’s coaches know that your son or daughter needs a little r & r too. The kids work hard. Some travel teams practice or play long hours. They need some rest. Perhaps you’ve been one of those parents who are seeing your kids having a chance to play in college. It’s easy to worry that if you aren’t there another player will take your spot on the team. It’s your call. I think, however, that more and more people are seeing how important this is.
Coaches: If you are a team that gives your players a weekend per month off, or at least a Sunday each month, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you haven’t been doing this and you’re willing to try to make that change, send me an email. In a few weeks, I’ll write another post on this subject and I’ll list any team that tells me that they are putting their player’s health and families first by giving them that weekend off each month. If you just do this at least 9 out of 12 months out of the year, I bet it will make a difference.
Tell me your team name, you city that you hail from, and the head coach’s name, and your sport of course. We all love our sports. Our kids love to play. Let’s help them play longer and stronger.
Please share this post with other parents and coaches that you know.