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What to Know Before You Sign Your Kid Up for Travel Sports

6 Things Your Kid Wants You to Know About Playing Competitive Sports

Over 10 years, I logged thousands (literally, thousands) of hours playing a combination of travel soccer and lacrosse . . . and that means that my parents were equally as involved. I was carted literally up and down the East Coast, to Europe, to California, and back again to compete with some of the best players in the country. Seems pretty cool, right? It was, but it was also a tremendous amount of work for everyone involved starting at age 7 or 8 all the way through high school.

Am I supergrateful? Of course. But if you have a kid who plays travel sports, you know how much work goes into getting them from point A to point B on time. And it only gets more intense as time goes on. It's a lot of dollars spent and hours logged for both the players and their parents.

Is your child headed toward travel sports? Here's what to know before you make the jump from your town's rec program to a full-blown travel team from someone who's been through it.

  1. You're going to be spending a lot, and I mean A LOT, of time in the car. Spending a lot of time hitting the road comes with the territory, and the more competitive your kids' team is, the further you'll go. And we're not talking just once in awhile. You'll be traveling every weekend for the better part of the year. When I was in eighth grade, my soccer team played in a league made up of teams from Connecticut all the way down to Virginia Beach. My parents spent about 15 hours in the car, depending on the location each weekend. And that's not even factoring in the two-hour-long practices that were 45 minutes away from my house twice a week. So throw a few of your favorite CDs in the car and make sure you get real chummy with your mechanic.

  2. Your kids are going to make lifelong friends. All that time you spend driving adds up, especially when you're carpooling. You'll find that some of their friends from the neighborhood or school will get replaced with their teammates — and many of them will remain buddies for life. For example, I'm 25 and still keep in touch with several of my old teammates from when I was a teenager. And weirdly enough, I ran into an old defender on my team when I was looking at wedding venues. Turns out she was also planning hers. Small world, right?

  3. She'll learn some serious time-management skills while being simultaneously exhausted. If one thing's for sure it's that these kids start their days super early. Now compound that with practices that can last until 10 p.m. or later, hours of homework, family dinner, and having any form of a social life. I feel tired just thinking back to those days. Juggling all these things at once will benefit her in the long run for sure, but make sure she's not getting burned out. She should take some time off from her primary sport (at least a few weeks a year) and make sure she's not overdoing it. Although there's a lot of pressure to play year-round and to attend every camp, clinic, or showcase, it's important to take time to rest and unwind, especially to prevent overuse injuries.

  4. There's no point in talking about college recruitment until they're actually old enough. While it's true that some players end up playing in college, the truth is the majority of the kids on the team won't move on for whatever reason. Maybe they fizzled out. Maybe they sustained an injury they couldn't fully recover from (I'm looking at you, ACL!), or maybe they just simply had an interest in something else. But one thing's for sure: there's nothing more irritating than hearing that one parent talking about how her kid's already got a full scholarship to play soccer at UNC when they're 10 years old. 1. It's simply not true. 2. You're putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on your kids. Which brings me to my next point . . .

  5. We already know if we had an off day. As much as he tries to get every pass and shot off flawlessly, like every other human being in the world, he's not perfect. He will eventually have a day when the universe spins off its axis and it seems like he's missing one opportunity after another. This may be during a scrimmage that counts for absolutely nothing or on the day of the state finals. But either way, he's aware of it — he's the one playing in the game after all. You're supposed to be the one cheering, remember? And it's likely his coach has already talked with him about it, too. So the absolutely last thing you should do is grill him on the ride home about his less-than-awesome game. The only thing that will come from the offhanded comment, "You didn't look so good out there today," is more frustration and possibly some tears. Without you having to say anything, your kid is learning a pretty valuable life lesson: sometimes you can work really hard for something and still come up short. That's life. Learn from your mistakes, and move onto the next thing.

  6. There will be incredible moments of success that she'll never forget . . .and it'll make her more confident in the long run. If your kid has a serious passion for what she's doing, she's bound to have some incredibly rewarding moments of glory. We're talking things like beating a serious rival in a huge game, winning a state title, or winning a worldwide tournament in Spain (yes, it was as cool as it seems). And even though I look back and think, "Wow, I took losing a few games and some town rivalries way too seriously," it was still rewarding and I wouldn't change it for anything.

Remember: meeting a goal feels great. Just make sure your child takes time to celebrate his or her victories before simply focusing on the next obstacle to overcome.

Image Source: Murphy Moroney
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