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Don’t Let Travel Sports Eat Your Life

By Debra Moffitt, Slate's Minor Leagues, 04/11/19, 10:30PM CDT


The professionalization of youth sports makes many parents feel as though a travel team is a kind of insurance policy: If you want your kid to keep playing sports on evermore competitive school teams, you’d better sign up for travel. Others see travel teams as an entrée to their son or daughter playing sports in college, though only a slim percentage will do so.

Hey, travel-sports parent, do you have a minute?

Just kidding, I know you don’t! I know you’re stretched thin as an Under Armour base layer. You’re buried in sports laundry and there’s another practice tonight, plus a tournament this weekend. Have you thought about freeing yourself from the vagabond travel-team lifestyle?

Weekends in roadside Hampton Inns and team dinners at Applebee’s. Long Saturday afternoons in anonymous malls, waiting for the rain to stop. Nighttime fun in the indoor pool, where kids crowd leisure travelers out of the hot tub while parents sip deserved cocktails. Meanwhile, at home, the basic requirements of running a household get overlooked. School projects get short shrift and you have to make a Sunday-night run to A.C. Moore, the parental walk of shame.

Unless your elite athlete is an only child, younger sibs get toted along like luggage and older kids grumble about going to yet another tournament. Leaving them behind can feel like abandonment; bringing them with can be tortuous and expensive. If you do drag them to a travel-sporting event: For your own safety, don’t let their electronic devices run out of charge.