The Development Problem
Yes, you as a parent have a problem if you intend to help your son succeed.
The problem is the baseball system in the USA is not designed to make your son a success.
Here it is: Your son loves baseball and would like to play college baseball or maybe become a professional however less than 2% of our travel baseball players end up playing college baseball and much less end up playing pro ball. That is a problem.
Your son has a dream and you are here to help them and you are fueling the dream as any good parent would do.
But… His chances of attaining this are slim unless you chose the right path.
And Travel baseball is the path you have chosen. Travel baseball is designed for many things, but it is not designed with your son’s success in mind.
Yes… The truth is that the baseball system in the USA from top to bottom is designed to generate revenue and not designed to develop all young players to reach their genetic potential.
It does not promise you a college scholarship but the inference is strongly there.
It is constantly implied, insinuated and inferred.
Yes, I realize that the coaches are telling you that its a tough road, but in reality the odds are stacked against you so much more than you can possibly realize as TRAVEL BALL will NOT prepare you the way you are assuming that it will.
Fact: Over 98% of our travel players will FAIL to reach their goal.
That is a 2% success rate.
Thats a very high fail rate.
As a comparison, our success rate at Top 10 over the last 20 years exceeds 90%.
I think that it is important to realize that the entire system of Travel Ball revolves around the concept of generating revenue. It is about paying to play, not anything else.
The agenda is NOT about making sure your son reaches his God given genetic potential.
Yes, taking private lessons and going to holiday baseball camps will help, but it is not enough.
Think about this:
Would you agree to send your child to school 2x a week for 2 hour sessions and then on Saturday or Sunday for 2-3 hours and expect him ready to receive an academic scholarship ?
Of course not.
Sending your son to school for 7 hours a day 5 days a week and doing homework for 1-2 hour every day does not even guarantee a college academic scholarship.
And baseball is a lot harder than math or history, and the competition for baseball scholarships is much tougher believe me.
I think that it is critical for a parent to at least understand the truth and the truth is that the odds are stacked against you in numerous ways.
The system is flawed more than you think is the point and it is not there to make sure you reach your goal, however it will gladly take your money and let you think you are heading in the right direction.
You can’t even go to the field on a Sunday afternoon and throw him batting practice without being hassled.
If our system was set up right, gyms and fields would be easily accessible as a starting point.
But, gymnasiums and fields all across the USA are padlocked shut during non school hours. Try going to the local high school gym and shooting some hoops.
Try accessing decent baseball fields without a permit.
Well, that’s ok… you can augment with private lessons for $40 or $50 or $100 per hour.
But exactly how much of that is easily affordable because in truth he needs more than a few hours per week, every week for the next 10-12 years if thats your go to plan.
Let’s talk about travel baseball.
It has replaced Little League as the go to place for competitive baseball.
Travel baseball is here to stay as a multi billion-dollar industry featuring thousands of teams from each sunshine state.
And for you, if you are going to be successful as a player you will want to participate in travel ball.
Travel baseball can bring many good things to the table.
You can measure yourself against good competition, learn first hand about traveling, play on beautiful fields, make friends, play for good coaches and enjoy lots of excitement.
It can be a great way to spend family time.
It can be a great way to learn discipline and loyalty.
You can learn how to perform under pressure.
I love travel baseball.
I have enjoyed every minute of playing and coaching in travel baseball for over 30 years and I would encourage every player to participate.
However, if you are looking to be successful in high school college or be a professional player then we have to be smart, look at the bigger picture and have a more comprehensive plan because travel ball will FAIL YOU at the end.
The first problem is the system is not designed to produce good players nor is it designed to make sure each player develops to his full potential. That is not a small problem.
It would be wise for us to recognize and agree that it’s primary goal is to generate revenue for those involved by providing opportunities for you to play for pay.
Travel ball is a business first.
The second problem is that if you rely on it to develop your baseball tools or skill set, you will be very disappointed when you come to the end of the road as it is not designed to develop the tools you will need to go to a higher level.
John Schuerholz, the Atlanta Braves GM was asked about about travel ball at the SABR convention in Atlanta a few years ago. He expressed great concern about how it was actually limiting the number of kids who became and remained interested in baseball, was using up the most skilled kids at too young an age, and was impacting the diversity among ballplayers by creating economic barriers at a very early age and not fully developing players to their genetic capability as the focus was winning games.
Yes, it helps you develop the ability and habits needed to execute the right play but not your tools and elite skills which is what is ultimately needed to open the doors to college and the pros.
Take a look at the next few photos and tell me how your team teaches you how to perform these required skills.
But the the truth is that these skills pale in comparison with what gymnasts can do at the same or younger ages because they are trained specifically to do it, and that is why traditional training in baseball is not enough to make elite players.
Developing elite baseball players requires a broad stroke program that can develop every tool and skill needed including jumping, leaping, diving, tumbling, sliding and more.
It would be faster to take a gymnast or a ballet student and teach him how to play second base or centerfield properly than it would a player who spent 8 years in a travel ball system learning rote actions.
Do you remember Lynn Swan and John Stallworth?
They are both NFL Hall of Fame receivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers and they changed the way NFL players train when they revealed that they secretly trained with ballet so that they could make acrobatic catches.
You could play travel baseball for 20 years and they will never focus on teaching you how to fly thru the air or jump for a ball 12 feet high or leap over a player sliding at you hard with cleats up.
The reason is that the system is flawed.
Yes, we need to play travel ball but as long as we know the system is flawed and we do something about it because we need to have a work around to overcome all of its deficiencies and there are many.
I used the word flawed and I do not use the word flawed lightly.
Why? Let me explain.
Flawed because it does not allow or insist or encourage players to take the 3-4 months of rest every year that every player needs to allow for arm development and as a result we have created an epidemic of arm injuries. The system does not want you to rest and they will do everything within their power to entice you to play year round at as many tournaments as possible.
Flawed because young players that have open growth plates should not be in the gym doing heavy lifting yet virtually every high school JV team is doing this and travel coaches are encouraging it as they want their players to be bigger and stronger despite the risks.
Flawed because every player whose family can pay, can find a spot on a team calling itself elite and he can buy his way into the system.
Flawed because plastic trophies have become a national obsession.
Flawed because the industry has implemented numerous pitch count systems under the guise of player safety, when none of those systems are science or medical based and are a complete failure.
Flawed because parents not only have to pay hundreds of dollars of entry fees for their child to enter a tournament with Perfect Game but now they have to buy a ticket to watch and pay more if they want a written evaluation and they cannot even bring a candy bar in with them. This is absurd and flawed to the bone and intelligent parents have bought into it and are allowing it.
Flawed because a critical part of baseball development requires inner team competition for play time and most young teams impose the minimum size roster so that parents don’t complain and as a result players never learn how to compete for a job. Where can you go in life where the job is literally handed to you?
Flawed because the coaches are still timing players in a straight 6o yard dash and using it as an important metric and measuring stick when it will never ever happen in a game. Never will a player run 60 yards in a straight line in a game, so to say it’s an important measuring metric requires a left handed explanation.
Flawed because every coach in the country is flipping soft toss from the side every day of the week thousands of times per season and no player will ever see a ball from that angle or arc or speed in a game thus developing a swing that has no game value not to mention that it specifically creates a long, round, incorrect bat path.
Flawed because many high school coaches and travel coaches who give private lessons hold grudges against players who go elsewhere for training.
Flawed because 90% of practice sessions are totally predictable and not presenting the true situational randomness present in a game.
Flawed because the emphasis of many practices is put on game execution so that teams can win an important upcoming game as opposed to developing the critical Tools players will need to make it to the next level.
Flawed because when the players reach the age of 18, they will be evaluated strictly on Tools and Makeup and teams do not focus on this type of development.
Flawed because over 90% of the coaches are not certified in this field of teaching baseball.
Flawed because parents are paying tax or private dollars for their children to receive an education and be mentored but we as an industry have the gall to cut young players from our school teams because they were not the best available. In most cases these kids can not latch on to a different sport by the time they get cut, go home discouraged, maybe give up baseball and end up despondent video game quasi experts who never learn how to compete and contribute in society.
In 7 years of coaching high school teams in Florida I NEVER cut a player. I refused to despite being under orders from the Athletic Director to cap it off at a certain number. I forced my athletic director to find money to buy more uniforms because the kid came to us saying he wanted to be a ball player and his parents were paying with tax dollars or private dollars and I was being paid to coach, not judge who the best players were. My experience is that most Moms who attend games have sufficient skills to make that call.
My best 9-12 would play on any given day and the rest would watch, participate, contribute and learn.
Every boy got a uniform and worked his butt off if he wanted to be on the team. Quitting was his option if the practices sessions were too hard for him, but cutting boys was not on my agenda.
Yes… I can continue with this list and there are programs out there that are attempting to be the exception but they are part of a system deeply flawed and can not get away from it.
And I can certainly understand why a parent might think that this system is his best or only option because you have never seen anything different or better.
Parents drive the train, Not coaches. Parents make the key decisions.
Listen… When you buy a new car you expect everything to be exactly perfect and to receive excellent white glove personalized service. Why don’t you expect the same from a baseball program designed to mentor your son? Your car is more important or more valuable?
I think not and I know that you agree.
But the fact remains that 94% of HS varsity players never get to play college or pro baseball. Only 6 out of 100 High school varsity players play at the next level.
And with this fact in hand, it is easy to see that an even greater number of travel ball players will not make it as many of them won’t make the varsity team.
As a result, the fail rate for travel baseball hovers between 97 – 98%. That’s a pretty big flaw in my opinion.
Question: Would you use a doctor, lawyer, airline pilot, mortgage broker, dentist, auto mechanic or cell phone company that failed greater than 97% of the time?
Most every parent would say no to that question without hesitation yet the majority of parents’ support, participate and faithfully follow a system known for it’s extremely high failure rate.
Straight to the point, the travel baseball system is overly focused on playing in games that cost money. Venue operators are getting rich off by tempting adults and children with inexpensive plastic trophies, meaningless points, as they grandstand to the egos of parents who need to see their son in the limelight. No flaws involved there at all.
Yes, at Top 10 we were finally motivated 20 years ago to create a better system of teaching ball players because for many years we have seen too many talented young players NOT make it because their parents mistakenly relied on a flawed system of travel and high school baseball to prepare their son for college baseball.
It does not work.
When my mother earned points for purchases 60 years ago, she redeemed them at her pleasure for valuable household items the family needed. Todays baseball points cost hard earned dollars and are worthless and can not be redeemed except by inflated egos. It is a Flawed system.
Looking more closely, we can see it’s all about the tremendous amount of money being generated by these tournaments and no one running the show wants to kill the golden goose so next weekend there is 1 more really really important tournament and we can not miss it.
Listen to a leading MLB doctor. I’m doing more and more operations on younger and younger arms every year,” said Timothy Kremchek, head physician for the Cincinnati Reds, who specializes in Tommy John arm surgeries. “These kids are being overused and abused. They are playing on too many different teams and throwing too many pitches. It’s something we know about, but the abuse goes on. The parents are chasing some sort of dream. It makes me sick.”
As far back as 1957, Sports Illustrated wrote: “The two basic arguments which strike at the roots of Little League pop up year after year: it puts too much competitive pressure on the children; it brings out the monster in too many parents and adults.
But at the end of the day if these illusions and excesses created elite baseball players, I just might buy in.
But it does not.
It does not despite any assertions or claims to the contrary.
You as the parents – are the key.
If you really want success, you have to learn how to buy into a science based developmental process and use games as a supplemental tool as we work around a system that has you set up for failure.