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.
NJ TRAVEL SOCCER. Washington Township travel soccer provides the opportunity for teams from our club to compete against similarly skilled teams from other clubs in the South Jersey area. https://wtsoccer.net/travel/
TEXAS YOUTH SOCCER. Competitive (Select or Travel) soccer is for U11+ players seeking the highest level of competition and coaching, and who are willing to make the required time and financial commitment. https://www.colleyvillesoccer.org/evofaqlist
COLORADO. The Rush Competitive division is for the player who is ready to take their development in this sport to the next level. Led by a highly experienced, professional Rush coaching staff, your player will experience an increased volume of soccer in a focused, goal-oriented, competitive environment. Our competitive teams train regularly to further develop their technical skills and tactical understanding of the Rush style of play. https://www.coloradorush.com/
VIRGINIA SOCCER. Shenandoah County Soccer (SCSL)Travel is a competitive program for players with above average skills and a strong drive to develop their soccer abilities and love of the game. Boys and girls that are ready to play competitive soccer, want to learn new skills, are ready to make the necessary commitment to play travel soccer and are ready to be coached by licensed coaching staff will benefit from playing travel soccer.
ILLINOIS YOUTH SOCCER. Travel soccer is a competitive program. All players are welcome to attend tryouts, but not all will be asked to join a team. Once asked to join, playing time is not guaranteed. Additionally, once on a team, players will continue to have to try-out every June to keep their roster spot. https://www.westloopsoccerclub.com/what-is-travel-soccer/
MASSACHUSETTS TRAVEL SOCCER. The travel program has a competitive focus and requires a commitment by players and parents. Although, the program also emphasizes fun, skills development, and continued learning of the game. https://foxborosoccer.org/travel-soccer
TRAVEL SOCCER IN MARYLAND. Towsontowne travel soccer is targeted at players whose skills and inclinations suggest participation in a more competitive environment. Payers must try out for and make a travel team, whereas, subject to space limitations, all players who sign up for recreation soccer participate. https://clubs.bluesombrero.com/Default.aspx?tabid=190456
ALABAMA. The BUSA-South Competitive Program is dedicated to offering players the chance to compete at the highest level, both regionally and nationally; providing a platform to give players the highest quality of training and competition; and encouraging players to participate on state, regional and national teams. https://www.birminghamunited.com/busa-south/#competitive
CALIFORNIA. Travel soccer team play not only requires that your son or daughter be capable of playing at a high level relative to the rest of their age group, but also involves a substantial commitment in time, energy, and money from both the player and their families. https://www.sycva.com/page/show/477110-a-parents-guide-to-travel-soccer
INDIANA. The Indiana Fire Juniors Travel Soccer program is geared toward players that have a desire to develop their skills at a competitive level especially for those who would like to play at the high school or collegiate level. The Travel soccer program is designed to advance the development of our players, enhancing individual and team skills. Travel players receive soccer technique and tactics training each week from a licensed youth soccer coach, under the supervision of the Indiana Fire Directors of Coaching. https://www.indianafirejuniors.com/travel
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. For additional insights into other soccer lingo like travel soccer, you may enjoy this post on other soccer words.
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!
Coach Bruce Lovelace started playing soccer in 1974 when, as a young boy, he constructed his own makeshift soccer goal. He played in high school, then intramurally in college and beyond. He started to coach his own children in the 1990s and then ran a Soccer Shots franchise for 12 years. Now, Coach Bruce publishes the soccer-for-kids.com website. You can also get lots of great ideas on Soccer-For-Kids Pinterest. Find out about what Inspired this website.
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