For years, kids destined to play sports in college followed similar roads. Local recreation leagues (Little League, Pop Warner football or other city-sponsored groups) until their freshman year where they would try out for their local high school team. After four years of high school athletics most would sit by the phone waiting for a call from a college coach, hoping for an offer to play at the collegiate level.
Many high school programs are notoriously laden with “sports politics,” where coaches tend to favor certain players over others based off of criteria other than their athletic ability. Some never even making the cut, traditionally a death blow for those with hopes of playing in college. Combine this with the need for increased exposure and decreasing college recruiting budgets and you quickly understand the evolution of travel/club teams. Most common for sports such as baseball and softball, travel teams can be found for virtually any sport in Southern California.
Travel teams differ from local recreation teams by both their willingness to travel the country in search of the top competition (with some of the top tournaments being held in New York and Florida) as well as their unwavering commitment required by the parents of the athletes. A commitment of not only time but in many cases travel sports can add up to $10,000 each year to the family budget once equipment costs, tournament fees and travel expenses are calculated.
So how can playing on a travel team increase an athletes chance of playing in college? Many college coaches believe the level of competition is superior in tournament play when compared to that of many high school leagues. Often, kids playing on a travel team may also be playing for their high school meaning that tournament play often brings the “best of the best.” Another advantage tournaments offer college coaches is the ability to scout multiple players at one location vs. the traditional high school competition where only two teams are scheduled to compete.
Riverside County, home to many tournament sports, will be hosting one of Southern California’s largest softball tournaments (Fall Kick Off) in Hemet September 25 and 26. With teams from throughout California and Arizona, the tournament held at Diamond Valley Park will draw college recruiters from local schools like UC Riverside and University of San Diego as well as colleges from Iowa and Texas. College recruiting services like the National Scouting Report are also commonly seen scouting these events, offering tournament players access to more than 950 NCAA Division I, II and III schools nationwide.
There are no guarantees when it comes to making the transition from high school sports to college but with the vast availability of travel/club teams throughout Riverside County there are many opportunities for young athletes to play at a highly competitive level well into their teenage years, even if they happen to be overlooked by their high school coach.