The comments below are from a parent of a current GoWags 10U player. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of myself or any GoWags staff member. The purpose of this blog is to open an honest dialogue about the pros and cons of rec baseball.
Please feel free to contribute to the discussion.
Since many travel team kids face the same questions, and now that we are half way through our rec season, I thought I would share my perspective and open the discussion.Pros:
- First, he definitely gets a lot more reps – including more batting cage time, more practices and more games. In addition, he is also faced with more game situations and the need to know, in advance, where to make the play. At 10 years old, I think it is a critical piece of his development. Runners at first and third; one out; ground ball to the first baseman – what’s the correct play? The more scenarios he can be exposed to the better – right?
- A second benefit of rec baseball is the chance to play positions that he normally can’t on his travel team. As a lefty, he is typically relegated to the OF on his travel team, but has an interest in learning how to pitch and playing more 1B. His travel team, being competitive, is not the place to learn how to play new positions, but it’s a real value of playing rec baseball.
- Given his relative experience playing baseball, my son is looked up to by his rec baseball teammates, which provides him with a chance to develop his leadership skills. He is not asked to provide a leadership role on his travel team, and at 10 years old his skills are just beginning to emerge. Rec baseball provides an excellent avenue for travel kids to identify and hone these skills.
- Rec baseball also provides an avenue to participating in the All Star tournament, which provides a significant upgrade in the play and the competition. But it also provides an opportunity for kids to express their pride in playing for their local team and area.
- Reps vs. Quality Reps? Many of the rec baseball players are very new to the sport or, at a minimum, do not have the experiences or exposure that most travel team kids receive. The result is games and practices that can border on chaos. There are a lot of walks, errors, passed balls and strike outs, and routine plays in the field are often adventures. As a result, compared to travel games and practices, the quality reps in rec baseball require a much greater time commitment to achieve. In addition, it’s easy for the player to get caught up in the chaos and lose his focus. If your son does not have the ability to maintain focus through the chaos, he might not be able to take advantage of the quality reps when they finally do arrive. For instance, despite the chaos, does he go through a pre-pitch routine to know the correct play? Or does he mentally “check out”?
- Don’t expect travel kids to get much individual training or development as most (all?) training is designed for the vast majority of the kids with far less experience. Clearly the coaches (and there are some very good coaches in rec baseball) are motivated to improve the game’s competitiveness and nearly all their time is spent with the less experienced kids.
- Time. Balancing travel schedule and practices with rec games and practices can be difficult. We are often in the position of having to choose which practice or game we are going to attend on a nightly basis. We don’t want to miss any travel practices or time at GoWags, but some conflicts are inevitable.
From my perspective, rec baseball can co-exist with, and even augment, a travel baseball schedule – but with certain caveats:
- Does your son wants to learn a new position? If so, then you should play rec baseball.
- Can your son maintain his focus/discipline through the unsteady quality of play? If so, then there will be sufficient reps that rec baseball should provide value. If his focus is easily distracted to make practice/games meaningless then the answer is probably no.
- Do you and your son have the ability to maintain the time commitment necessary to take advantage of the inconsistent quality reps? The time drain can be exhausting. If you are going to take advantage of the quality reps, it requires a commitment. Rec baseball is certainly not the most efficient way to achieve quality reps, but some of the opportunities are unique.
The ultimate question is whether the time committed to playing rec baseball provides enough quality repetitions and opportunities for improvement to warrant time away from a more singularly focused commitment to the travel program. Given my son’s desire to work at new positions, I think the answer is probably yes – this year. But I also know that I will face the exact same internal debate next year, and I’ll spend a few sleepless nights trying to do the right thing for my son’s development. I’d love to get other feedback/discussion on the value of participating in local rec baseball leagues.