PBSF’s Philosophy on Club or Travel Baseball & Softball

As players develop skills and continue to play the sport, parents and players will sometimes ask how to play more competitive baseball or softball. Additionally, some clubs will approach a PBSF player and invite him or her to try out for their club, or travel, team.

Parents will often wonder, what should I do about club or travel ball? At what age is it helpful and enjoyable to join a team?

Playing more baseball, including on club or travel teams, is a great way to continue skill development. Some travel ball programs begin as young as the 8U age group. There are excellent coaches who teach kids how to develop into incredible players, and we believe PBSF players should take advantage of opportunities for continued growth, with a healthy dose of caution and rationality to parents.

The most influential factor to your player playing into the future, according to noted youth sports researcher John O’Sullivan, is ensuring each is having fun and enjoying the sport, especially at a young age. We believe the best way to accomplish this is through playing with friends and receiving positive reinforcement from coaches, teammates, and parents.

At PBSF, our goal for players is for them to have fun, develop and master baseball skills, and acquire a love of the game. If done successfully, the player will continue to play well into the future as he or she grows up, and more importantly acquire adult skills through life-lessons which come with competing in team sports.

For parents and players considering club or travel baseball, our suggestions are:

1- Play spring baseball with PBSF. It’s our hometown league, where our kids play with their friends, receive the accolades, and are rewarded with positive reinforcement. This provides the “feel-good” platform that will keep your player coming back year after year to the sport. On the hometown team, strong players are the stars, and other players look up to them. 

For those players who desire playing at the highest levels of the sport at their age, postseason “Overlay” opportunities like the Pinto, Mustang, and Bronco Memorial Day tournaments and the PONY World Series tournament are the best of both worlds and are only available to “House League” players.

2- Investigate and find a summer and fall travel team with strong coaching and player development. A dedicated and experienced coaching staff will help refine and elevate baseball skills, and on these teams, your player will learn from other players who are also highly motivated. With this rigor, sometimes it can feel like a job, but hopefully the skill development will be its own reward. Of course, we also recommend our fall ball program, which features weekend games and (optional) skills clinics to continue developing players. PBSF fall ball is also more affordable and flexible to accommodate travel ball players, or other sports players, who choose to play both as many kids do every year.  

3- Take the winter off from baseball or softball. Informed by sports-specialized orthopedic surgeons, athletic trainers, and other experts, we believe it is crucial for players of all ages, but especially PBSF-aged players, to take several months off from playing baseball each year.  The time away from the sport is good for a “psychological” break, as well as necessary for the health and recovery of the throwing arm.

There has been a surge in “Year-Round” baseball teams in recent years, a model which is likely developed as much for the business model of a baseball club as for the skill development of players. When considering the advice of the medical community we strongly recommend a break, which could include a winter of cross-training in basketball, soccer, or other seasonal winter sports. 

PBSF is committed to helping our kids mature into the best adults they can be, fulfilling their baseball player potential, and developing a deep love of the game of baseball.  As such we encourage parents to consider the longer horizon and not get swept up in the frenzy and peer-pressure to “keep up.” For parents who believe that Travel Ball is the best choice for their children, we support this option and their choice.  And for those parents struggling with the choice because they feel pressure from kids and clubs to join lest they “be left out,” or “fall behind,” they can rest assured that their young players will have a multitude of competitive baseball options in the future. 

We appreciate feedback and we encourage you to reach out to your commissioner or the PBSF president with questions or advice.

Further reading:

Passan, Jeff. The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the most Valuable Commodity in Sports , Harper, 2016

Changing The Game Project blog, specifically, “The Professionalization of Youth Sports”

Roni Caryn Rabin, New York Times, Parents Should Limit Sports Participation for Children, Trainers Say