What are some questions/concerns to express when being offered a spot on a travel team in a brand new organization?
Find out what their goals are. Are they trying to develop local kids and form a team for school ball? Are they trying to form an elite team/organization to compete at high level tournaments, and build their name? Are they offering a league and teams as a business?
See if their goals line up with your goals.
Who will be doing the coaching?
What do the fees cover?
How much travel is expected?
Which fields are the tournaments supposed to be played on? Then go look at the fields, and surrounding area. You will be spending a great deal of time there.
In regards to pitching…
How many pitchers will they carry? (Will they carry enough to not have to abuse arms in those weekend marathon tournaments?)
Will they adhere to appropriate pitch count limits?
Will they enforce proper days of rest between outings?
Will the pitchers receive instruction or will they be expected to already possess the skills or seek outside instruction (additional cost)?
Will the team shut down part of the year (preferably 2-3 contiguous months) to give pitchers time off from pitching?
Will there be any of the player’s dads coaching the team. No point in paying for travel/select baseball and getting 4 dads in the dugout.
The other responses suggest great questions that I fully endorse asking. But to me, the bottom line question is: Is it primarily a “developmental” team, or will the focus be on winning at all costs?
My son has played for both kinds of travel teams. The “win at all costs” team was not a positive experience. Camaraderie was almost nonexistent, because the boys competed with each other relentlessly for playing time. The coaches behaved like they were managing adult professionals instead of teenagers. They put little effort into teaching the boys the finer points of their positions. And while the roster had enormous talent, the win-loss record was mediocre, which I blamed on the cutthroat team culture. The boys didn’t especially like each other and ultimately didn’t mesh well as a unit.
The other travel team my son played for was much more developmental. The coaches took pains to ensure each player received a reasonable amount of playing time and learned the ins and outs of his position. Pitchers received instruction to correct mechanical flaws. Batting practice was likewise focused on ensuring good mechanics and an aggressive approach. This team was less “elite,” but my son learned a tremendous amount and improved significantly. He also had more fun and developed lasting friendships.
I’m not necessarily knocking all “win at all costs” teams. There are talented coaches who can manage those types of teams without creating a toxic culture. And there are certainly players who thrive in such intensely competitive environments. My son held his own, but was never comfortable with the “dog eat dog” team environment. After it became clear the coaches weren’t going to teach him much, he made the mature decision to train more independently and focus on his high school varsity program and community baseball, which in our region remains competitive because most local families can’t afford travel ball.
One thing you might do is check out the backgrounds of this new team’s coaches. If you can speak with some parents of boys who played for the coaches in the past, you’ll probably get a sense of whether the program is a good fit for your son.
Find out how many players are return players and try to find out if any are discipline problems, entitled crybabies, etc.
If in the north…What are the off season facilities like, can they actually practice in them.
Do they focus on Development for the next level or do they only want players that already “know” everything? ie do they always say they need to get better players to win rather than being able to develop them through their system.
No Dad Coaches.
Are their coaches one and done or have they been there for several years? Ie lots of first year Div III kids or are they Coaches from established programs who will know how to run effective practices and teach game strategy.