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Are Travel Sports Affecting High School Sports?


Senior Julian Nichols takes a shot for his travel team, Valley AFC. (Courtesy Photo)

By David Carter--Eagle Sports Editor


It has long been debated whether or not a school-sponsored sports program gives the same opportunities for college recruitment as a travel sports program. The general consensus seems to be that the answer here is no.


The problem all seems to rely on efficiency. With current standards, travel and club teams attend tournaments and showcases where they have the ability to broadcast their talent to hundreds of coaches at a time - all in one weekend. At these tournaments, there are also hundreds of teams, thus giving these college recruitments teams exposure to thousands of kids all at once. At a high school game however, there may be 50 kids maximum.


“...Players get recruited off of their travel club teams, period. A college coach will go to a tournament or showcase and evaluate 200 players in one weekend, a college coach is not going to make a lot of trips to a high school soccer game to see 25 players play,” says Bradley Lang, FCHS Boys soccer coach.


The exposure to coaches in such vast amounts can be a serious advantage to players wishing to continue to the collegiate level.


"I started playing travel for more competition, but once I realized just how serious and how many coaches were at travel showcases, I really knew that was the best way to get noticed," quotes senior Julian Nichols.


Though it can be good for both colleges and travel players alike, this presents a serious problem. In just about any high level club or travel team there are extensive costs that need to be covered. These range from uniforms, to team fees, to travel, to equipment. This extra expense is not something that every family can afford, and can present problems when it comes to furthering one’s athletic and academic career.


"Honestly, it is really expensive to pay to play travel soccer as long as I have. My parents and I just knew it was worth it because that is how I was going to get a spot in college," says senior soccer player Oscar Garcia.


The trend, as of lately, is that college recruiters rarely attend high school games. They would see few players, from smaller locations, playing on their own turf. However, for less fortunate families, these are the only sports programs that they can afford; and though slight compared to travel teams, even school teams can sometimes require a fee. The problem this presents is the total lack of opportunity for less fortunate players with adequate skill to play at the next level. A player can have all the talent in the world but can never play for a college if they are never seen.


Not only does this gap between travel teams and school teams create a recruitment dilemma, but it also has the potential to cause issues emotionally from team to team. Differences in coaching styles and team structure can lead to conflicts with morale and team chemistry when transferring from one team to the next.


“Ideals (and) structure that have been in place can take a hit if the program or group has no structure or discipline,” says Coach Jamie Wright, FCHS Boys basketball coach.


Structure isn't the only thing that takes a hit during this transition, the social environment changes too.


"It's honestly pretty weird to go back and forth from my travel team to the school team. I feel like when I'm with the travel team it's all work and all about the future, where it's totally different for the school. It is more relaxed and the team really feels like family," remarks freshman volleyball player Abby Stone.


Either way, travel and school sponsored sports alike strive for the same goal, to better their players, and love the game while doing so. They both have their ups and downs and are better suitable for different players across the board. When it comes to making the decision between the two, or maybe even both, the ball lies within the court of the player themself.



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