As a parent and coach of four children who participated in traveling sports while growing up, and as a board member and past president of the Spring Lake Park Traveling Basketball Association, I feel compelled to comment on Dr. Niehoff’s article that gave me the impression that traveling sports is a waste of time and money and that playing multiple sports in high school is a better investment of time and resources.
First off, my kids all played at the highest levels of basketball and baseball before their successful high school careers (and many honors on and off the playing field). I coached several of those teams and I can tell you first hand not one of the players I ever coached told me they were doing it to earn a scholarship or be seen by recruiters from any level of college athletics. The parents knew this as well as I even talked about it in parent meetings. Players at this level tend to do better in school as they juggle homework, school, commitments to their team and other duties, preparing them for real life later. They built bonds that exist today although they are grown, have families of their own and have scattered from their hometowns. They are close through social media, they participate in, and attend, each others' weddings, they reminisce of the fun days competing against other communities at picnics, house parties and love telling people they played against some of the players that did make it to the big time. Many of them still call me "Coach" and a few got into coaching themselves from the experiences they enjoyed competing at this level.
So while I agree with the statistics the doctor points out, the memories and bonds these kids created are priceless. The best memory I have is asking my basketball team in their final year of traveling what their fondest memories of the entire experience were and not one player mentioned anything about a game or a tournament win. It was stories of off the court shenanigans and things that I had simply forgot had happened. I was both shocked and honored that it was not so much about the games in the end, but the other events they so fondly remember.
So I say the cost, while it can be steep, is simply an investment that my family thought was priceless (and we did not have that kind of disposable income but did it anyway). All my kids, and those they competed with, have grown into awesome adults with awesome families and I like to think these experiences had a lot to do with it. I wonder what the hard statistic is of a high school varsity basketball team having players that did not compete at the traveling level? Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are high school varsity rosters, and we were thanked many times over by the coaching staff at the high school for our efforts.