I’m often asked about travel teams. What high school program do you think is better for my son or what camps have the most impact.
A word of caution … when you ask for my opinion, buckle up, you’re going to get it.
I base my views on experiences I’ve had with my son, on friends whose kids play in other states, even on friends whose children play other travel sports.
Youth Lacrosse: The Backbone of Sports in this Country
In this arena, parents most often play the part of the coach. I’ve done it! It can be both a thankless, yet rewarding job. Most times kids are starting at a young age and, depending on where you live, the coach may know very little about the sport.
A person who gives his or her time to coach other people’s children should get all the credit in the world. I’ve heard youth coaches refer to coaching a youth program as “herding cats,” which is usually said with a sly smile.
The job of a youth coach is to teach the basics of the game. They teach passing, catching, grounds balls, proper positioning, and most important of all the rules of the game.
These key elements are necessary, to build the foundation for a player. The other item that needs stressing is practicing at home is the only way to improve. Not once or twice a week at a one hour practice, but consistency. I’m not a fan of youth leagues running plays or a motion offense. Focus on the basics, and you’ll be fine.
As a dad coaching his son, I noticed at least one positive effect. When I was coaching, my son would tell the other kids who were screwing around to shut up and listen. He hated seeing his Dad disrespected.
I told him every coach is a dad, brother, mother, sister, so treat them with the same respect as me. To this day, he walks up to every coach, shakes their hand and says thank you. I told my players to shake the hand and thank the referees. Without them, there would be no games.
Players and parents, please remember the referees are trying to do a job!
Some youth lacrosse players will become good enough and love the game to step up to a travel team.
This is tricky, and the one where I get the most questions.
Since he started, my son has played for seven travel teams. Some folded, some were at different times of the year, some we went to for a different experience. He’s played in 13 different states.
I love travel lacrosse. It may be expensive, but if you want to enhance your kids’ experience, it may be necessary. A lot depends on where you live. There are youth programs in New York, and Maryland that could crush most same-age travel teams, so this advice might not be for everyone.
Choose the right team. If you’re at the point of going the travel route, you should know players who do it. Talk to them. Research the team. The coaches on these teams will shape your child’s athletic development. Do your homework.
We have played for not-for-profit teams and teams looking to make money. Coaches who are yellers, nurturers, teachers, and friends. I don’t regret any teams my son played for.
The different styles, kids, and leagues have helped him see the differences in society. I hope that will make him a better person as an adult. I never fault someone trying to make money, if you can be in the lacrosse industry and make money, more power to you.
Things To Look For On A Travel Team: Coaches
Is the coach you talked to the actual coach your son ended up with? Most times you’ll hear from the director, and then a different coach shows up for your game. That is my number one complaint.
I want to know who coaches my kid. The coach who is at practice and games, and who my son feels comfortable asking questions or say something isn’t working.
If I don’t know your coach, I will take a pass. The exception is if there are 10 coaches on the field during practice, working different areas, and it’s a team-coaching philosophy. If a coach doesn’t know your child’s name, don’t waste your time and money.
On a travel team, this is a grey area for me. I don’t like paying money to have a Dad coach his kid. It’s a no-win situation.
Believe me, no matter what, there will always be resentment, and that coach won’t get the benefit of the doubt. I’ve seen it, heard it, and lived it. Most people won’t say anything. They will just leave the program.
The exception is if you know beforehand and you base your decision on that information. Or the Dad happens to be John Danowski, or in my case, two All-Americans from North Carolina! In that instance, I pleaded with them to be my son’s coach.
You signed up and made a travel team. There is going to be travel. Yes, it can get expensive, and yes, it can be time-consuming, but you signed up for it, so do it.
Commitment is key. I’ve seen countless times when parents on a team may deem the location as too far and decide not to go. That may screw up the team.
If I’m a program director and that happens, I’m cutting your son. It is unfair to other players, and if it occurs enough that the team needs to cancel, the team might not be invited back for future events. This can hurt the program.
I’ve spent the past few years driving countless hours with my son. We’ve had some of the most in-depth, honest, heartfelt talks that a father and son can have. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. If he quit lacrosse today, I would be forever grateful to the sport for giving me this time to bond with my child. In my mind, no amount of time or money spent would be too much.We’ve had some of the most in-depth, honest, heartfelt talks that a father and son can have. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.Click To Tweet
Travel Team Expectations
I believe there are two levels for a travel team: pre-high school and high school.
At the pre-high school level, it should be about making your child the best they can be. I’m not as concerned with wins and losses if my child is playing the toughest competition for that level.
Steel sharpens steel. If you’re playing lesser talent, so the team looks good, you are paying for the team to develop, not your child. Spend your money on ensuring your child is challenged and improving.
I also don’t want to go and get thrashed at a tourney so the team can brag that it plays in “this, this and that” tourney. There are enough tournaments with different levels of play that a good travel program knows what to do.
If you’re still playing travel lacrosse in high school, odds are you are looking to play in college. The travel team should, at this point, be about getting your child there. You are paying them for guidance, feedback, help and most important – honesty.
Most kids dream of playing Division I, but according to the NCAA 2.9 percent move on from high school to D-I.
But there are more options to consider, like D-II, D-III, NAIA, JUCO, MCLA. This isn’t football or basketball. There are not full scholarships for lacrosse. But there are partial scholarships and financial aid packages that can make college cheaper. Also, playing lacrosse may get your child into a school they may not have been able to get into without it. How great is that? I joke with my son that I need an ROI for all the time and money I’ve put into his lacrosse career (maybe not joking!).
I heard a coach give a speech to a room full of high school kids and their parents. It may have been one of the greatest speeches I’ve ever heard. It brought tears to my eyes. He summed up the whole travel-team-to-college scenario nicely. One thing that will always stick with me was when he said, “You don’t leave money on the table.”
As far as college is concerned, D-I may be your dream, but a D-II or D-III team may pay for school that’s a dream for any parent.
High School Lacrosse
This you play for the name on the front of your jersey. Give your all, listen and respect coaches. If you’re from the Midwest area, there aren’t going to be college scouts lined up to watch you play. Play for the love of the game, the camaraderie of your teammates and hope to be immortalized by bringing home a state championship.
I’m a 49-year-old man. I still have friends who brag about their high school playing days. That’s what it’s all about.
I’d love to hear from all the coaches, players, or parents about big games, big players or news that should be promoted.