Spring Play vs. Train

My son is a high school junior who played 9th grade and JV ball. This fall was the first season he sat out of travel ball to train, specifically to work on mechanics and velocity in a Driveline program. As he approaches his first Varsity year, he is seriously considering sitting out in the spring to train instead of play. He is disappointed by our team’s culture. Lack of player dedication, some favoritism on the part of coaching staff, and coaching inconsistencies have left him disillusioned. The Driveline coaches say he does not need high school ball to be successful in securing a college position or pro prospect and encourage him to keep training in lieu of playing. I wonder, though, whether he might be sacrificing valuable playing/strategy experience as well as life experience of playing through less than ideal circumstances. Any insights would be helpful from experienced players, coaches and parents. Thanks.

Nice to have you in the forum. Interesting topic, for sure. I still tend to lean toward playing school ball. I totally get the argument, but off-field training should support on-field playing, not the other way around. I look forward to seeing what others feel, too.


Thanks for your insight Mr. Ellis. It means a lot to have you respond.

I personally have no PRO’S or CON’S with respect to play or train. Here is what I have witnessed over the years:

Some coaches in organized amateur ball have a sensitive issue with players that receive serious private coaching. Why? Because they feel that part of their control, not to mention game knowledge, has been taken away by someone other then themselves. These coaches operate in “my way or the highway” environment.Also, some amateur coaches like to keep their talent close, with “eyes’ only” in their domain.

By not playing organized ball your son may miss out and being seen in an organized ball context. In that regard, Steven Ellis gave you solid advice when he mentioned the priorities of play Vs train.

I too totally get your disappointment and frustrations. Amateur baseball is plagued with the conditions that you itemized and it’s been that way for decades, and will continue regardless of who says what.

Travel teams, elite teams and so forth have at their center of gravity the foundation of what you are now experiencing. There are exceptions to be sure - but those exceptions are far and few between.

So, think this out, slug it out, grind it out, and do the best you can. And if all else fails, this situation weighs on the youngster more that it does something for him and his sprits, look elsewhere where he can have a good time, enjoy the game for the game itself and then call it a day. If this is not a “can do”, there’s more to life than playing baseball. In fact, there’s scouting, 4H, FFA, amateur radio including CB radio, get an old jalopy and take on a father and son car project, joint a sportsmen’s club and shoot off some cap and ball black power - a neighbor of mine and his two sons joined a Civil War reenactment club and shot everything from black power canons to Colt-Patterson cap and ball revolvers. They never hit anything, but then with all that smoke no one could see any how. Take up fly fishing - just be careful. I had to have nine stiches from a hook that a guy sunk into me.

If you and your son are using this team as a vehicle to get into college or some other agenda - obviously it’s not gonna work. On the other hand, stranger things have happen. So, I would suggest regrouping, talk this through with your boy and see if this is worth all the persuasions that your son is experiencing and what’s expected as a payback.

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There is another question that comes up on this site from time to time which is “Should my kid stay on JV where he will get lots of playing time or should he take advantage of an opportunity to move up to varsity where he will get exposure to that level of play but likely won’t play as much?” And, for many of us, the answer is “There’s no substitute for live game play.”

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I have always coached that you practice to get better and you play games to get experience. You have to do both. You can train and train and train but to what goal? There has to be a goal within reach and if that goal is next year or when there is coaching turnover, that might not be the right approach. I’m with Steve on this one. He will have coaches he doesn’t like over the years. Look at it as a challenge. If he has the arm, he will play. Ultimately, the coach plays kids that produce.

I think Driveline would say train twice as much as you play. Playing makes the game fun but also puts you in situations that are hard to duplicate. Pitch selection, fielding, hitting, pickoffs, as well as any high leverage situations cannot be adequately duplicated in your training. I think their philosophy is more not to worry too much about travel ball or multiple league play and combine strong training and recovery programs with regular play. If you are not getting playing time find a team where you can play regularly as game play should also be just one of the buckets you are filling to complete yourself as pitcher.

Thanks coach. Sounds like solid wisdom. The fly fishing tip is also much appreciated!

Thanks Roger, Bx2 and Thor for your insight too. Looks like everyone, including Steven, is pointing in the same direction: strength in numbers. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

This is a great site. Very helpful! Thanks again.

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You will find some very sound advice across this forum, some very intelligent members.
Here’s my $.02 . I think of my son as one of the hardest working kids you’ll find when it came to pitching, off field practice and off season training. He could have hit the weight room a little more but the kid had a ball and glove ready at all times to work with a coach or just Work on small things with myself in the back yard.
He had a private coach that he was with for many years. The end of their relationship came when the coach wanted him to pass up a chance to pitch for an elite travel team. This was a team ranked in the top 20 nationally, a once in a life time opportunity. To not only play for but play against some of the best teams in the country. My son would have missed the opportunity to play all over the country, including pitching at the Connie Mack World Series. My son really enjoyed playing high school ball, but it was like a spring training for him. He got to go out Work on somethings, different pitches with little pressure of winning and losing. Yes practice and training are important but the goal at the end of the day is train to play.

This should be the way, but unfortunately, you will have to judge each coach individually. If you have coaches that are secure in their jobs due to local connections, it may just be a circle of players that see game time and it becomes political to get your child into that circle.

Thanks guys. Great wisdom which I appreciate so much. What I’m hearing is love of the game for the game’s sake, train to play and play because you love the game and to have fun doing it. If it goes any further, great! If not, there are other things in life to be fulfilled by. We need the balance anyway you slice it. Learn from all team and coaching scenarios, but take none too seriously. Examine your options and go with the ones which fit your goals including that of simply playing the game and having fun doing it. Train well, play hard, have fun, but remember there’s more to life than baseball.

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So true brother. My comments are from me being the coach. Parents have no issues removing their children so I have no issue not playing their’s if they aren’t producing. The kids that produce play…with me at least. What you are describing is what the industry calls “daddy ball.” Rightly so.