The cost of travel softball: is it worth it?
Youth fastpitch softball has developed significantly over the past 15 years or so, thanks in no small part to the success of the U.S. national team particularly in the Olympics. College scholarships are readily available, and good players more than ever are expected to participate in what is known as travel ball.
In most youth softball circumstances, a player starts as early as 4 years old, but often not until a bit later. Early on, certain players either are clearly better than their colleagues, or parents of players look for ways to give their young athlete an edge.
Aside from specialized private instruction in areas like hitting or pitching, many players gravitate toward travel ball. Compared with what is known as recreational ball (or “rec ball”) open to most any player with structured schedules, travel ball teams generally require tryouts, with each competing at a regional level in tournaments, and top players can play competitively for most of the year.
Which, of course, requires money. A lot of money according to some parents. One Southern California parent, who put two daughters through travel ball, estimated the annual cost to be in the five-figure range.
“It can be pricey; I didn’t really realize it until I tallied up the numbers,” said the mother, who both managed and coached teams in rec ball just northwest of Los Angeles. “I never kept track because I didn't want to know. At least in just one more year, both girls will be in college.”
Her estimate? It costs her family nearly $11,400 annually per player to participate in travel ball. Costs by region may vary, but here is her breakdown, on an annual basis:
- Monthly dues: $2,400 ($200 monthly)
- New bat: $300 (new bat per year)
- New cleats: $75 (one pair per year)
- Weekly hitting lessons: $1,920
- Uniforms: $400
- Food when traveling: $2,400
- Hotels (average 15 nights): $1,500
- Gas: $2,400
Of course costs can vary by region, and upon other factors such as a coach’s desire for gear, specialized instruction, etc. For instance, for the cost of hotels noted above, understand that these are for the most part California prices; in some areas of the nation the costs can be much less.
One thing to note is this: travel players have been known to jump teams. When that occurs, understand that it will require new uniforms and maybe even some gear like cleats as travel teams often want their players in the same colors down to their shoes.
Is it worth it? For the mom noted above, both daughters received college scholarships to continue playing fastpitch softball well past their teens.
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.