Traveling comes at a high price
I have three kids between the ages of 10 and 15, and each has played on travel teams. The biggest change I've seen over the past five years is how much more intensity there is in adults wanting these kids to commit to one sport, year-round.
Parents and coaches are telling kids: If you want to be good at this, you're going to have to concentrate on this one sport.
In other words, do you want to get a college scholarship? And that's tough for the kids because they want to believe in and listen to their parents, and unfortunately this is sometimes that the parents are selling.
We played a ton of different sports when I was growing up, from swimming to baseball to basketball. Playing multiple sports is important for the body development of young kids. Now, kids focus on one sport too early. You see it a lot in soccer, where you supposedly have to play it year-round if you want to be any good.
My daughter Sydney is 10, and her travel soccer team has been together now for nearly three years. They've lost one game, and her coach is fantastic. He's really teaching the kids well. He doesn't put a lot of pressure on them to win. He's definitely one of the good coaches who understands and encourages these kids to play other sports. But the nature of travel ball is they play outdoors in the spring, outdoors in the fall and indoors in the winter. Some kids play on two or three teams at one time. They go from one game to the next. It looks like they are enjoying it, but they are just being pulled in so many directions that at times you wonder.
The travel team holds an annual tryout, but it's basically the same group of girls each time. Sydney is a good enough athlete that she could probably miss one of the seasons if she wanted to and still make the team. But as she gets older, that will be harder to do. That's where the pressure comes in to give up the other sports. You know: If you want to be Brandi Chastain or Cobi Jones, this is what you have to do.
Sydney, who also participates on a swim team, will have decisions to make -- because especially with swimming on the high school level, you practice in the morning and then after school, too. Soccer practice is every day. Something's gotta give.
I don't want to damn all the parents who want their kids to get a scholarship and an opportunity at a college education. I just hope they keep it in perspective and understand that, OK, there are percentages here. Make sure your bases are covered and your kid is well-rounded.
Mike Golic, a former NFL and Notre Dame player, is a college football analyst for ESPN and co-host of the "Mike and Mike" show on ESPN Radio.
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