A recent viral tweet exposed the heavy costs associated with travel basketball and the burden it places on families.
Does this mean travel basketball should be avoided? NO. It means families need to take a long hard look at the RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI) for different programs.
First, let’s review the costs associated with playing basketball. The per season cost to play on a travel team can range from $1,500 to $3,000. This cost includes registration fees, hotels, uniforms, gas, food, etc. Your child could potentially play travel ball from 4th to 12th grade. That’s 9 seasons of travel ball. So that total investment ranges from $13,500 to $27,000.
What do you get for this investment? Just trophies, plaques and championship titles? If this was the only Return on Investment, it’s easy to say that travel ball is not worth the cost.
What else do you get for that investment? The player has a great experience and visits many places they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to see. Now is it worth the investment? Maybe, maybe not.
The biggest reason travel ball can be worth all this investment: the OPPORTUNITY to be noticed. The average athletic scholarship is $8,700 per year. That’s a grand total of $34,800 over the course of four years. This is where you get your RETURN ON INVESTMENT!
We can also lower that upfront cost. Your 4th grader does not need to be playing travel ball. Kids aren’t being scouted in elementary school. Your local recreation department probably has great basketball programs for elementary and middle school athletes. The cost of these programs can range from free to a couple hundred dollars. A far more affordable expense than the $1,000+ travel leagues.
You can also get an idea of whether your child has the potential to play after high school. Speak to your child’s coaches and ask if it’s worth investing more in their skill development to potentially receive a college scholarship. Only 1% of high school athletes receive full or partial scholarships.
Now, if you make the decision to invest more, a travel program that brings college scouts to tournaments can be a wise investment when your child reaches 9th to 11th grades.
By law, college basketball coaches can’t come out to recruit potential student-athletes until July of every year. But, the travel season runs from January to August of every year. While your team does need time to practice together and work out the kinks before the scouting period, they don’t need seven months. A few months of practice, plus some games/tournaments before scouts arrive is ample time. There are specific times when recruiters can contact players and specific dead periods where no contact can be made. To see the recruiting schedule for Division I, II and III, visit: https://www.ncsasports.org/mens-basketball/recruiting-calendar-rules
Support your local recreation departments by signing up your elementary and middle school athlete for their programs. If you have that extra money for travel leagues during this time, instead of spending it on travel ball, invest it into a college savings account for your child. This is going to do more to support their future than a travel ball league for a fourth grader.
If you see potential in your child and their coaches agree, once your student-athlete reaches high school, a travel ball program can give them OPPORTUNITIES to be seen by college scouts. You will have lowered your investment cost, waited to see if your child sticks with the sport and given them affordable opportunities to improve.