The question comes up frequently, What is travel soccer? Well, there's a lot more to it than the obvious element of traveling. Travel soccer involves more on several levels.
You're probably wondering exactly what is involved, is travel soccer worth it, and what age does travel soccer start. Let's start with an overview.
Generally speaking, travel soccer is a more competitive level of youth soccer where kids have to try out to be selected to play on a travel soccer team. Travel to games and tournaments is more regional than local. Travel soccer has a bigger time commitment and costs more than recreational soccer.
When to start travel soccer depends on several factors. Deciding to play or not is not just about the age, ability and soccer maturity of your child. It's also about the added time commitment (and money) that comes along when you want to enroll your child in a travel soccer league.
Generally, travel teams start with 9 year olds, but some leagues provide an opportunity for 7 years olds to play travel soccer. Many child development experts agree that kids are not yet ready emotionally to play travel soccer until they're 8 years old or older.
Both travel soccer and recreational soccer give benefits to children. See the illustration below.
Participation in travel soccer or recreational soccer builds a foundation for success in many aspects of our kids' futures. One potential downside with travel soccer is reduced playing time for marginally skilled players. In recreational soccer kids tend to get equal playing time during the soccer matches.
The following tables highlights the main difference between not-too-serious recreational soccer and more competitive travel soccer.
|FEATURE||RECREATIONAL SOCCER||TRAVEL SOCCER|
|TRYOUTS?||No, every child makes the team and gets equal playing time.||Yes, child must be selected to make the team. The better players get more game time.|
|TIME||2 to 4 hours per week.||Longer and more frequent practices. Participation in weekend tournaments.|
|PRICE||Generally less than $100.||Several hundred dollars or more.|
|TRAVEL||Locally only, usually within the same town, county or neighboring county||Regional travel. Can involve overnight stays in a different state.|
Travel soccer is worth it if you and your child know what's involved. It can be both fun and rewarding. You will get both physical and emotional benefits by participating in travel soccer. Soccer is the number 1 sport in the world for many reasons.
Just do your due diligence and find out the competitive level of the travel soccer league you're researching. Talk to a few parents who have kids participate in the travel league already. There you'll get a realistic idea of the time and money involved.
The most important thing is to find out if your child really wants to play soccer in a league where the intensity is a bit higher than the average "in-house" recreational soccer league. Some kids naturally gravitate toward enjoy a highly competitive environment. Other kids really just enjoy the social aspect and are more interested in just having a good time playing.
Travel soccer cost can vary quite a bit. Travel soccer leagues may use high level coaches that get paid for their coaching skills.
Participation in soccer tournaments adds cost of the basic price of small town type of youth soccer. It varies widely by area of the country as well as the age of the players and the level of play.
Youth soccer registrations are as low as $170 and as high as $900 for a season of travel soccer. You also may have soccer uniform costs. Additionally, a big part of the expense with youth travel soccer can be your accommodations if you're traveling a significant distance from home and staying in a hotel.
You should understand that there's a lot more to it than just how far you drive to get your child to the game. Usually, there are several things than come along with participating in a travel league for soccer. You'll see these differences in rec soccer and travel soccer if you look at these 10 descriptions taken directly from youth soccer league websites in a variety of states, all over the country.
Read the descriptions of travel soccer below and you'll see it a totally different level of competitiveness and commitment by players, parents, and coaches.
Clearly, the term travel soccer is interpreted as a level above rec (recreational) soccer, but there are no specific rules or universal guidelines that define exactly what constitutes travel soccer.
A more appropriate way to describe the higher level of play in travel soccer is to call it "Competitive Soccer." Competitive soccer is known as club soccer in some states and known as travel soccer in others. These more competitive teams are for kids to aspire to play for an extended number of years, perhaps at the college level or above.
Not all travel soccer is super competitive. It really varies by location. This was the situation for my kids when they played "travel soccer" in southern New Jersey.
In my own small town of about 9,000 people all the kids over the age of 7 travel to other towns for their youth soccer matches. The area in South Jersey is full of similar small towns that have their own soccer organization. Most of them offer the recreational style of kids soccer for only the youngest age groups.
Kids over 7 years old travel for their soccer games because there aren't enough kids in each town to have an in-house recreational league in the older age groups.
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We all want what's best for our kids, no doubt, and we can too easily assume that means playing competitive soccer for a travel team. A true barometer of their passion to play the sport is to watch the expressions they make with their faces and their body language.
If you see passion, excitement, and self-directed effort at a high level of effort, your child will likely love to participate in travel soccer. If the kids get stressed or burned out, then recreational soccer might be the better road to take.
Keep it safe. Keep it fun!
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