Friday, December 19, 2014

What to Expect at a Travel Ball Tournament

Knowing what to expect before you arrive at the tournament puts everyone at ease and allows you to have more fun.  Although we can't cover all the possibilities, we will explain the most common setups that you will experience from a spectator's perspective.  Some of this information provided is based on OnTurf Sports tournaments.  It always helps to know the name of the tournament that your son or daughter is playing in so that you can do your own research before the weekend.  Please make sure to check into the specifics of each tournament as the situations will change from what is noted.

Sanctioned tournaments are well defined events that follow a set of rules and guidelines established by the sanctioning organization.  Baseball Players Association (BPA) and Perfect Game (PG) are the two sanctioning organizations used by OnTurf Sports.  You will see the BPA or PG name, image and/or logo if the event is sanctioned.  If your team is attending a non-sanctioned baseball or softball tournament, the tournament director should communicate the rules and guidelines that will be followed.  In a non-sanctioned tournament, the tournament director does not have to follow any set rules and simply establishes which rules will be followed.

The items below follow the general sanctioned tournament guidelines.  Variations do occur.

Please see the sanctioning organization website for game rules at BPA or PG

  1. Tournament Length: Tournaments will range from a single day up to 7 days for a national championship tournament.  Typically tournaments will be 2 or 3 days, Friday through Sunday, for youth ages 8u to 14u.  Older age groups may go 4 or more days, Thursday through Sunday, depending on the size of the tournament. Tournament lengths will vary around the size of the tournament, the sanctioning organization, and the time of the year including or excluding holidays.  Your coach should know how many days are scheduled for the tournament.

  2. Tournament Format: A 3 or 4 game format is standard for youth ages with 4 to 7 games for older age groups.  This means that depending on how your team plays, your team will play at least the number of games noted.  In a 3 game format, your team will play at least 3 games if no interruptions happen during the tournament (ex. weather).  Please understand that OnTurf Sports does not use the term "guarantee". There are very few tournaments that actually guarantee a set number of games.  Although it boils down to terminology, weather among other factors can force a tournament to alter the schedule.  Everyone wants to play all the games planned but with only a set number of days to play, tournament directors should avoid the word guarantee unless that is their intention.

    The tournament format also includes how the teams are eliminated or separated based on their performance.  There are too many options to describe in this article but some examples are pool games to single elimination and pool games to championship or consolation rounds.

  3. Schedule: OnTurf Sports releases the tournament schedule no later than the Tuesday before the tournament.  The coach or team representative that registered the team for the tournament receives an email from OnTurf Sports providing the schedule information and any special instructions as soon as the schedule is available.  The schedule release is also communicated through Twitter and Facebook for all to see.  Other tournaments will use different methods to release the schedule.

    In a 3 game format tournament, the first game on Friday is not be before 6 PM in May unless a special exception has occurred.  Once June has started Friday game times may start at 5 PM or earlier depending on the size of the tournament.  Game time starts are always variable and everyone must check the schedule on the day before the tournament starts to make sure they have the right game times.

  4. Game Results: OnTurf Sports posts the game results on the website and a paper record is posted at the main portion of the complex for everyone to see.  Not all tournaments post the game results.

  5. Gate Entry Fee: There are two different methods on how gate entry fees are collected.  The gate entry fee is either included in the tournament entry fee paid by the team to play in the tournament or a per person gate entry fee is paid at the tournament by the spectators.  If the gate entry fee is paid by the team, the tournament listing and price will specifically describe that the gate entry fee is included with the tournament entry fee.  Otherwise spectators will be charged the gate entry fee at the tournament.  For OnTurf Sports events, a gate pass is provided to the spectator that works at all the facilities being used in the tournament as either a day pass or a tournament pass.  The amount of the gate fee varies depending on the tournament.  When your team plays in tournaments not run by OnTurf Sports, please make sure the gate entry fee is explained.

  6. Food and drinks: Food and drinks are available for purchase at most tournaments.  Tournaments may have restrictions on what can be brought into the park.  Coolers and large containers are typically prohibited.

  7. Directions: OnTurf Sports provides facility directions in multiple forms.  With each tournament listing, the facility information including the directions are provided on the OnTurf Sports website.  Each park will be listed on the game schedule as well noting the park name and field name or number that corresponds to each age group.  The directions for each facility are also provided in an event packet emailed to the coach prior to the event.  Your coach is encouraged to email the packet to the entire team.  Other tournaments should at minimum supply a park address through email or a website.

  8. Scoreboards: The use of scoreboards varies widely with many public supported facilities no longer installing them.  Many times in a publicly used facility, the scoreboards are broken or not maintained in working condition (ex. lights burnt out).  Other parks simply have never installed scoreboards due to the expense. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Travel Sports FAQs

Each year your child plays sports, you are evaluating the success of the season.  It is measured by the Enjoyment Factor which is defined by the number of teammate friends, the interaction with the other families, the quality of the coach or coaches, and the individual or team progress or results.  Youth travel sports have become an extension of your ability to find others with the same goals and interests.

If you are considering travel sports consider some of these pros and cons.

Q: What are the advantages of a travel team?

A: Travel teams benefit from knowing the quality of their coaches in advance of the season, having the flexibility to control their schedule in terms of game times and locations, controlling the amount of money invested, and the ability to form the team with the players and families of their selection. 

Travel teams experience new facilities, new cities, new competition, meet new people, challenge their abilities, and expand their view of the world outside of their home.  For baseball and softball, travel teams typically play standard rules for all ages that are not specially modified for youth only (example Little League Baseball - no stealing bases).

Q: What are the disadvantages of a travel team?

A: Travel teams are more competitive in terms of playing time on each team and in terms of the level of play against other opponents. (You can argue this is a good thing for players with the drive and that enjoy working to be the best.) Typically more practice time is required and expected to be competitive in the travel circuit.  There are additional expenses (hotel, food, fuel, equipment, gate fees, etc.) that families will incur due to the travel component. 

Q: How many games do travel teams play in baseball or softball?

A: The number of games will vary greatly depending on the age of your team and the coaches desire to play games.  A typical tournament weekend will give your team at least 3 games with your entry fee.  If you would win the tournament, your team would have played at least 5 games depending on the number of teams in the tournament.  If your team plays in a league for development games, 5 to 18 games are typically played depending on the number of teams in each division.  Therefore a travel team can easily play 20 games very easily up to 60 plus games if a quality team is playing regular games plus tournaments on most weekends.

Q: What should parents look for in a travel team?

A: As with any activity involving the entire family, you should feel comfortable with all aspects of the travel situation especially the items noted below.

  1. Does the coach know the game and can teach the game to the age group?
  2. Do the coaches communicate with the parents well? When are practice and game times and locations, what uniform is being worn for the next game, etc.  Ask others who know the coaches.
  3. Understand how the coaches approach playing time?
  4. What does the player fee include? All game fees, complete uniform, indoor workouts, etc.?
  5. Is there a team or organization history of success?
  6. How long has the team been playing together?

Q: What are common expectations for youth travel sports?

A: Players should be learning the fundamentals and proper techniques to make routine plays of the game.  Winning every game would be nice but it should not be the only goal.  There is in many cases, a correlation between coaches that teach and practice the fundamentals with teams that execute the fundamentals in winning games especially in the younger age groups.  Each level that the player participates in requires the fundamentals plus a certain understanding of the concepts of the game to be successful.  As players get older, coaches reduce the time spent on fundamentals and shift the focus to refinement and improvement of skills and how to handle very specific game situations.  Talent can carry a player through each level but very few players without some luck and a disciplined approach to maintaining and improving their knowledge and skills of the game ever reach the highest levels.

"Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals." - Jim Rohn

Monday, November 10, 2014

Getting Started

As our sons are now in the college baseball recruiting process, it brought us back to how we got started in travel baseball to begin with. The look back in time has prompted us many times to say that we could save others some time by putting our travel ball experiences down in writing.  This blog will have baseball and softball material that can be applied to your own situation but never forget that our opinion and experiences are just one perspective.  Use our material to form your own opinions and plans for how your family will enjoy and use travel ball to reach your son’s or daughter’s goals.

Our plan is to provide a new topic or expand on a topic once a month to begin with and gradually increase the topics and frequency as time passes.  Feel free to email your topic ideas to us for consideration as the next blog post.  In general, you will see topics from a parent, coach, tournament director or outsider’s view such as what level of travel ball is right for my child, travel ball expectations and ideas of what progress should be achieved at various age levels.

Check back often and always remember to enjoy the grind!