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Travel Teams vs. School-Based Teams: The Latest Statistics

MADISON – The message is clear- the better option of travel team sports or school-based sports is school-based programs. That’s the latest information in a report by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

The student-athletes embedded in travel sports are for the most part the elite group of athletes with top-notch skills, but many times it’s the parents who think their child is excellent at their sport and continue to feed the pay-to-play process for many years. Recent studies indicate 62-percent of “travel teams” parents will go into debt to have their children involved in some sort of year-round sports or mostly elite travel programs. The thought process behind the dedication to travel teams is the student-athletes will have a better chance to earn college scholarships by partaking in the elite section of athletics.

Dr. Karissa Niehoff, Executive Director of the NFHS, has reported the total number of athletes earning scholarships through the travel sports is much less than many think. She added, “Parents should encourage their kids to play multiple sports for their high school teams and save the money they would spend on club sports for college tuition if scholarship money does not materialize.”

One study indicates some families spend up to $1,000 a month on their child’s travel team experiences, with most of those athletes not receiving any type of scholarship funding.

One parent from Madison, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he had his child, who played softball, in travel teams for nine years. He would spend $60 every weekend for tournaments he traveled to with her. That cost added to team fees, skills camps, pitching lessons along with the necessary equipment and additional accessories to keep up with the social aspects of travel team added up to thousands of dollars.

By the time his child made it to high school she became disenchanted with the school program and eventually dropped the sport. The parent tried to obtain an athletic scholarship, but was unsuccessful in doing so as coaches among the regional college teams only had the opportunities to see most of their possible recruits during school-based teams.

The recent study concurred finding parents spent beyond their means with the hope that playing club sports will be the difference-maker in their children receiving a scholarship to a NCAA Div. 1 school.

According to Niehoff’s report, college coaches will find their athletes who excel in school-based sports. After all, high school-based sports have more interest, more media coverage and more fans than club sports, and the athletes have more fun because they are representing their team and their community. School-based sports remain an incredible bargain when compared to club sports.

“Playing one sport in the fall, another during the winter and yet another in the spring is the best route to future success- whether that success is on the playing field or court, or in a boardroom,” added Niehoff.

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