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Travel vs playing w/friends

Feb 19, 2009
My 11yo dd has played her entire fp life with a core group of kids in our local rec league. The year before her first year in 10u she worked her butt off to learn to pitch and became a solid pitcher in her first year and a dominant (for our rec league) pitcher the following year when I got a highly regarded local pitching coach to work with her.

To make a long story short, she has a chance to play for one of the best travel teams in our area next year, wants to do it, but isn't sure she's ready to cut the cord with her friends, specifically her best friend who is just good enough to stay in rec ball (therefore unlikely to quit) but doesn't have the skills for travel. She's been asking about playing both travel and rec and I've been reluctant to agree to let her, she couldn't play for the above referenced team because they're A level and our rec league only allows B level travel players to participate.

I'm sympathetic to her desire to play with friends as most of the travel teams seem to have a core group that came out of rec together and know each other socially while she wouldn't know anyone at first. Our rec league doesn't sponsor a travel team and while I know a couple of her friends and teammates other than her best friend who could play travel if they wanted to, I don't know that they intend to and feel it would be innapropriate to recruit them to join my dd in travel (I coach a younger dd in that league so I'm pretty involved with the rec league).

I'm curious if anyone else has gone through this and how it resolved itself.



Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
Dallas, Texas
This is a common question...your DD won't be happy playing rec ball if she wants to play competitive softball. That doesn't mean she will discard her friends.

I had two girls play travel ball, and both ended up playing college (one hoop and one softball).

The solution is to have her play travel, have her BFFL play rec, and then they keep their friendship alive by doing stuff other than softball.

Your DD can only get so much from sports. The rest comes from somewhere else. your DD is going to have many interests other than softball in about 18 months, so you should plan for it. your DD isn't going to stop shopping for clothes, going to movies or watching American Idol simply because she plays travel softball. In fact, my kids loved being around friends who weren't athletes.

Also, she may not make any real close friends playing travel ball. The reality of high level travel team sports is that the players on the team are competing against each other for playing time. On really good travel teams, no player is guaranteed anything as to playing time. The best players play, the others sit. (A coach can't win games by playing weaker players. ) So, the relationship of players on the good teams is more like business associates than close friends. (This doesn't mean she isn't a good teammate--but she won't like like all of teammates. )
Nov 1, 2008
my dd is doing both this year. the travel ball team has none of her rec ball friends on it. However, most of the girls on the travel ball team she is familiar with because they also play on rival rec ball teams. our rec ball league is comprised of several small towns/communities who each field one or two rec ball teams. she's been with the travel ball team about a month or so and is quickly making friends with the girls. This weekend she was supposed to play in a free local tournament (rain out) with her travel team. Her rec ball team was also going to participate in the tournament. She decided she'd play with the travel team even though they would most likely have to play against her rec ball team.

Amy in AZ.

Super Moderator
May 7, 2008
It is time for her to move to travel. I will bet that she will love it. 30 years after my playing days, those players are some of my closest friends.

Yes, I kept my school friends, but I also met a lot of new people.
May 9, 2008
Hartford, CT
travel vs rec

My DD is playing Travel (12U) for her first year. 7th grade, just turned 13.
A Pitcher. Can't hit at all.

We decided to skip Middle School as it is is almost all 8th grade players, when would she do homework, couldn't get to Travel practice ... etc...

We decided to let her play LL as 21 of her 7th grade friends (since K playing together) are still playing. Four teams, they all cheer each other on regardless of team...really really nice group of kids....

She is making friends on her Travel team.
LL comes after Travel so she has missed a couple of LL games.
She is happy with how this has turned out and is hoping schedule works out so she can play LL All Stars ...she may get most of that as Travel not doing Tournaments for a few weekend right around that time.

For us it was more social and since we could schedule LL around the Travel schedule, it is working out well for us.

7th grade is full of physical & emotional changes and she really wanted to be with her friends, getting Ital Ice after the games together....cheering together...

I also coach her LL team, so I can re-inforce what her Travel coach wants from her and I am learning some good stuff that I can bring back to LL.

Although I'm not always content with the Travel coach decisions, I'm being patient to see where it all goes.

Bottom line, right now my DD is happy and skills are improving.

For us this was the right way to go.

I don't think you can can say yes or no to both or not in every case.
Just look at how it could benefit you player...if yes, why not both?

(w have one player on Travel where the Rec coaching is just horrendous..that is a very good reason to skip it)


May 7, 2008
I know what she's going through, been there and done that.

A chapter in my book even deals with it.

Here it is and I hope it helps her.




In my years of competition I accumulated many trophies. Several years ago I got tired of dusting them all off every week. I took off the name plates and I donated those trophies to a charity that could use them. I did, however, hang on to a few of the ones I was most proud of and a couple that brought back warm memories.

One of the trophies I kept was a small one, the first one I ever earned as an adult. It read: "Most Valuable Pitcher, 1974, Hayward Men's Fast Pitch, "D" League". I joined a team right out of High School. The guys on that team were sports writers, ‘typewriter pounders’, as they described themselves. They told me right from the start that they were not very good and seldom won but they were a good bunch of guys and they always had a lot of fun. So I joined the team.

They were right. Anyone that made it to 1st, pretty much got a free trip to home plate. I believe we placed 9th out of 12 teams that year, however, I won the MV Pitcher trophy for the league. I did have a lot of fun with those guys, they were a blast and we laughed about everything.

During the season with that team I got a few calls from other teams. The other teams asked me to jump ship and pitch for them, all of them were teams in higher leagues. I said no because I made a commitment to the guys and I would stick it out with them for the rest of the season. That was my first season playing in ASA competition.

A few years after I gave those trophies away a friend of mine came to my house. He asked me, "Why do you hang on to this little hunk-a-junk from D league? You have these other trophies and plaques from the metros, regionals and nationals and those are all A league. How come you kept this one"?

I kept that trophy so I would never forget where I came from in softball. Those were some of my softball roots.

I did not play for that team the next year. The manager would have, no doubt, welcomed me back with open arms. He never called me because the whole team knew what my answer would be. I am glad he did not call me because I would have hated to tell him no.

I was going to move up and they were not, everyone on the team knew that without one word being said. We had all played to the best of our ability for the team and now it was time for me to move up. I have very fond memories of those guys and the fun we had playing on that team.

When I came home with that trophy I asked my Dad if he thought I was good enough to play B league the next year. This was about a 6 level jump at the time, from D to B. He chuckled and said, "I guess you'll never know till you try, huh"? If you knew my Dad then, you would understand that he was challenging me. My Dad was a B league pitcher at that time, having worked his way up from D league over a 15 year period.

Before the next season arrived I took a job out of the area. I did not play the next season.

The next year I checked around and found a team that was looking for a pitcher. I told them I did real well in D league 2 years ago. The coach then pointed out that they were an A division travel team but it was OK if I wanted to come and try out for the team.

So I came out and did my best. The catcher and assistant coach wanted me to play for them because they saw potential. The head coach did not agree. I was too young in his mind to be an effective A travel pitcher. However, they needed a third stringer so I was asked to join the team.

The head coach was very sincere and diplomatic in his talk with me. I will never forget what he said, "As long as you can get in the game and throw like an A travel pitcher, we'll give ya a try but the moment you start throwing like a D league pitcher, it's over".

We both knew that I had been challenged. My Dads words from 2 years before were ringing in my ears. Either I stepped up to that challenge and met it head on, or I could look for a D league team.

My competition for the #1 pitching spot were two 40 year old veteran Open A division pitchers. By the end of our first season, I was the #1 gun. I saw what my competition was on the pitching staff. I stepped up to that challenge.

I saw what my competition was against the batters I would be facing. I stepped up to that challenge.

We won both leagues we were in and almost all of the tournaments we entered the first year together in A league competition.

The next year we did the same thing except we went on to win the metro tournament, regionals and the A div National Tourney. I was voted the MV Pitcher of that tourney.

I made some choices and they were not easy ones. I chose to step up to the challenge because I had to. I had to because I could not stand not knowing if I had what it took to make it as a pitcher in a higher level. The bigger the challenge, the harder it is and the better a pitcher will perform.

When I moved up, I left some good friends and a very nice coach behind. If I would chosen to stay with that D league team, out of devotion to the team or friendship to them, I would have never really stepped up to the challenge. We might have slowly worked our way up to B league, like my Dad's team, over 15 years. We may have still been playing D league after 15 years, who knows?

Here is the big kick finish questions for young pitchers;

If you had your pick of the trophy you wanted, would it be a 1st place B National Trophy or a 1st place A National Trophy?

If you pitched your team to a 1st place win at the B nationals, would you be good enough to beat the team that took last place at the A Nationals?

To quote my Dad one more time, "I guess you'll never know till you try, huh"?

Feb 19, 2009
Great stuff Hal, I think that post just sold another book for you.

My only concern at this point is that dd is the only one who seems to have any lingering reservations about it, even dw who didn't want her to age up in 12u rec last fall is in full support of making the move. DD didn't go to a formal tryout for this travel team, she was invited to participate in one of their practices and to be evaluated by their coaches. Dw tagged along at the last minute and while I initially thought that would kill it right away she's seen enough rec practices to recognize how much better and effective this travel team’s practices are.

So dd goes and has a great time, thought the girls and coaches were all great and holds her own with them on the field while learning more than she's ever learned in a single practice her entire life. So when I talk to her later about it she says she's excited about joining this team but want's her bf to also join them (not gonna happen) and if not, play rec while playing travel (also not gonna happen unless she joins a different, lesser team).

I don't want to force her kicking and screaming into this travel team but I told her that if she chose to stay in rec she'd never reach her potential as a player might not have this kind of opportunity again next year. She gets it and I think she'll accept it more fully by the end of her summer all-star season.

The travel coach gave her some feedback on things for her to work on before their open tryouts in August. Other than reinforcing those points in our practice together, I'm thinking I just won’t press her about joining the travel team and let her just enjoy the rec all-star season with her friends and bring it up only after that ends in late July.
Feb 16, 2009
Have Just Gone Through This

This season. DD is 14 and was asked to play up to 18U-A. Please note that most of these other girls are not 18 but 15/16 and playing up themselves to 18U. DD wanted to play with her friends. Tears were shed. We as parents knew she would never tap into her true potential (we were told she had) if she stayed at 14B with her friends. So we really drove it home that this is where she should be at and she knows it deep in her heart but we know it hurts cuz she wants to play with friends. That was last Fall. Fast forward to present. She is back playing 14U while her other team plays HS ball. She is so much better than her counterparts it's crazy and she now sees it too. It has not hurt her in the least to be around the older girls. She is looking forward to the summer season. It's not been easy being top dog 14 going to bottom of the lineup at 18 but she's working through it. From strictly a parenting perspective, it's always easier to give in and do what your child wants, even though you know what is best for them, just to make them happy. But that's what we're here for - to help guide them in the bigger decisions because we see things differently than they do. They are the kids, we the adults and we're in charge cuz we see things as they really are.
Dec 31, 2008
IMO, if your daughter is serious about softball, wants to become the 'best' she can be, wants to be a professional softball player, and has all the desire in the world, she should not have a problem letting go of the rec league, if she wants to become a great ball player. there is plenty of time for fun outside of this, so if your daughter is serious, i would put her on the travel team, but, if you give her the decision and she chooses rec ball with friends, so be it. I would highly recommend suggesting the fact to her that to become a better ball player, she needs to be with girls above her ability and to be challenged. Travel ball players succeed more often than rec ball players, most of the professional players and olympians have played ASA. Good luck with her decision and i hope she chooses wisely.

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