Travel teams impacting prep sports

Nathan Ham

March 28, 2014

Rarely in small towns do you see athletes that do not play for their respective high schools. Usually, athletes play at least one or two sports, sometimes even three sports to compete against other schools, compete with teammates and most of all, just enjoy the high school athletic life.

Now, it seems like athletes and parents are turning their attention towards travel leagues.

First off, let me preface this by saying I have absolutely no problem with kids playing on travel teams and am certainly all for young athletes playing top notch competition and working with great coaches and getting valuable experience.

However, what bothers me, as someone that has followed prep sports for roughly the past 12 years, it is sad to see great athletes not playing for their own high school. Even here in Ashe County, it has become an issue that teammates and coaches have to deal with.

I fully support athletes doing what they feel is best for their future, especially if they feel like they are destined for great things as a potential college athlete. But doesn’t it seem like a bit of a slap in the face to teammates and coaches that have expected these kids to play and suddenly, they don’t show up?

I also realize that playing with travel teams might get you more exposure to college coaches and scouts. But after talking to a few former athletes and even a handful of area coaches, it sounds like when it is all said and done, a coach has all of the power and ability in the world to get their star athletes seen.

One player told me that he played some AAU basketball, but the best feedback and recognition he ever got was after his head coach sent video clips and made phone calls to college coaches.

With this being such a touchy subject for players and parents, coaches and players I spoke with did not want to have their names mentioned, and I respectfully honored that request.

I talked to four area coaches, and though they each coached a different sport, the feeling was about the same: Kids should play for their high school and let their outstanding play speak for itself.

All four coaches told me that they took pride in doing everything they could to get collegiate coaches to take a look at one of their players, whether it is on film at first or in person. One coach told me he specifically tried to schedule games for his teams to play in larger areas like Winston-Salem, or in non-conference and holiday tournaments just for that reason.

Another coach said that if he were a college coach, he would not even think about recruiting a player that did not play for their high school because in his eyes, it showed a lack of commitment to the sport when you can play travel league sports in the summer and play for your high school during the fall, winter or spring.

When you dedicate yourself to a sport to the point where you want to play at the next level, you have to make some sacrifices. Abandoning your high school team does not seem like a sacrifice that a player should ever consider making.

*Nathan Ham can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @NathanHam87