How much travel is too much?

Discussion in 'Youth & HS Soccer' started by soccerdad72, Sep 20, 2021.

  1. soccerdad72

    soccerdad72 Member

    Chelsea
    United States
    Apr 5, 2021
    I know - unfortunately everyone's experiences and thoughts on this will vary greatly, but I was curious on everyone's opinions and past experience, specifically with the high school ages.

    We just got our team's planned schedule for the late fall / winter and it turns out, they apparently have our team in two different leagues, the Elite Academy League and the Select Clubs National Showcase League. First of all, I think too many of these "leagues" are made up, but the broader concern is just the volume of travel that this schedule is going to require. We're in Ohio, for reference purposes.

    We will be making two separate trips to IL on two consecutive weekends in November, one to Rockford and one to somewhere in the Chicago area, both are probably a 6 hour or so drive each way. We'll also be in Florida the first weekend of December and two more trips within Ohio (2-3 hour drives each) the other two weekends in December.

    And this is before we get into our NPL league, where our team played last spring. Those, however, are fairly limited in travel, mostly within 2-4 hours away.

    We hate telling the team we can't make all these trips, as we've been committed to this team for a couple years and it's a great group of kids / families, but I wonder if this is all just too much? My son (a Junior / 2005) is likely not going to play in college, unless he tried out for a club team, as he's primarily looking at larger D1 schools, which he is not at that level, so I don't know if the exposure to college coaches will help him that much. He loves to play, so I think he'll want to do all these games. It's just whether the travel and the days missing school will be a problem.

    Sorry for the rambling - I'm just trying to work through some of this in my head. :)
     
  2. bigredfutbol

    bigredfutbol Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Woodbridge, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I feel your pain, and I honestly don't know how to answer the question.

    I think that as a rule, there is too much travel in travel sports, period; but at the same time, if a family can afford the time and expense AND the kid wants to do it, I look at it as less a player development issue and more of a 'hey, whatever you want to do with your free time' question.

    So, in your case--if your son wants to do it, and it's not a financial hardship for the family...maybe go ahead and let him play as much as he can with what's left of his 'career'? Particularly considering his Senior Year will very likely be abbreviated--lots of clubs semi shut-down the final semester of the Senior year, it seems to me (and understandably so). These Junior year tourneys will be pretty competitive matches being played 'for keeps' and for you son this may very well be the last time he gets to be part of that, even if he's not personally trying to get recruited.

    Just my two cents.
     
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  3. smontrose

    smontrose Member

    Real Madrid
    Italy
    Aug 30, 2017
    Illinois, NW Suburb
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    How do you know your kid isn't D1 level?
     
  4. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    We've generally done two "long range" (7+ hour one way) trips for Showcases the last couple of years, then there would occasionally be a 4-5 hour trip. The rest were within a couple of hours. That was being in the Great Lakes/Midwest Regional League and our State League.

    A couple of years ago, we made two trips to Florida (we're in Ky)... one to Panama City Beach, one to Tampa three weeks later. We flew to PCB, and drove to Tampa (it was Christmas-New Year's week, so we had time off).

    I found out we're supposed to play in a Showcase in Sarasota, FL in Feb, and Richmond, VA (7 hour drive) in April.

    However, DS *WANTS* to play in college, this is his last year for HS/Club, so we've got to get the exposure.
     
  5. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    It sounds like too much to me, but I know it's par for the course.
    If you both enjoy it then why not?
    I think if money (or time) is tight then I would not go.
     
  6. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    My line for "too much" has moved a little farther out every year. We're past all kind of points I once vowed I would never cross (joining an out-of-town club, tournaments that are more than a state and a drive of two or three hours away, ...).
    I think those decisions came easier because we don't live in a major metro area and finding increasingly stronger teammates and competition as my son improved became more difficult. If we were in the Chicago area, I'd be regularly wondering why his teams couldn't find a game within an hour or so of home.
     
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  7. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    And that's why travel teams keep going further and further away. But, it's funny how quick things can change. About 3 years ago, DS was on one of the top teams in the state. Literally, only 1, maybe 2 teams would even give them competition. We started holding our own in the (then) Midwest Regional League. Fortunately the drives were all less than 5 hours. Because we did so well, we made the National League the following year.

    BUT, when we started NL, we had lost 6 players (5 starters) from the previous year. Now we're travelling farther (those were the trips to PCB & Tampa) AND getting our butts kicked. The season after that (after losing even more players), we couldn't even compete in the state league.
     
  8. Beau Dure

    Beau Dure Member+

    May 31, 2000
    Vienna, VA
    Parents need to start speaking up on this.

    Chances are there are plenty of teams within a two-hour drive who are just as good as the teams you'll face with your six-hour drive. We just have so many fragmented leagues and so many egos involved.

    Is it possible to drop to a B team that travels less?
     
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  9. soccerdad72

    soccerdad72 Member

    Chelsea
    United States
    Apr 5, 2021
    This is the B team o_O Granted, the A team is nationally ranked, so his team is probably one the better B teams in the region.

    As far as whether my son is D1 level, it's just a gut feel - he's not been recruited by anyone above D3 so far and, as mentioned above, he's not playing at a national level, so he's really not going to the majorly recruited showcase events at this point.

    And truth be told, he's not sure he wants the time commitment that college soccer requires, especially if he's not getting financial benefits from it.

    Thanks for all the thoughts everyone - I do think we've expanded the distance we'll travel in recent years and we're likely going to go to pretty much all these games (thankfully, cost has not been an issue). I just saw the planned schedule and paused for a minute wondering if it's too much.
     
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  10. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    For us this just isn't the case (again, we live outside a major metro area). If you push that line out to 3 and a half hours there may be something like 18-20 teams in his age group (educated guess) below the academy level that make for genuinely good opponents for my son's current club team. Drop that down to 90 minutes and the number drops to zero unless your players want to play a bunch of 10-0 games. My son's team did a couple of these last season to meet state-registration requirements for the President's Cup, and they're boring for his team, embarrassing for the other team, and not worth a half-hour drive (much less the hour-plus it actually requires) for us.

    If you could organize those 18-20 teams (or whatever that number actually is) into a league and then supplement that with a few tournaments a year that are within, say, six hours so your players don't get tired of seeing the same opponents over and over again, that'd be just fine. But those teams are in three different major metro areas that aren't that close to each other, so they all have their own geographical focus (one of those cities is St. Louis, whose teams can comfortably head to Kansas City; the others are in greater Chicago and Indy and likely to look further north or east and southeast).

    If you live outside a major metro, it's either status quo or settle for uncompetitive soccer that would see a lot of these kids quit (mine might be among them).
     
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  11. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    What's "plenty"? Keep in mind as you get older and older, more teams drop/fold/combine, so that limits the number of teams available to start with. When we first started travel soccer, the teams were within 1-2 hour drive. The following year it went to 3. Then 4, then 5 hours, then we were back to we couldn't compete with the team up the road.

    I agree with there being a lot of leagues. We have two in our state... "Premier" and "Select". Each with it's own divisions. I remember a couple of years we also played in the "Buckeye" (ie: Ohio) league. I just looked. It has 4-5 divisions in each age group.

    Then add in "Regional Leagues" and/or "National Leagues". If your team keeps dominating in lower leagues, shouldn't you go find tougher competition?
     
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  12. soccerdad72

    soccerdad72 Member

    Chelsea
    United States
    Apr 5, 2021
    I think our club owner is trying to provide more opportunities for their teams - I just wonder if he went a little too far.

    Last season, our team played in NPL, which was limited to Ohio, PA and Western NY. We also split games with our A team in a Midwest League - just Michigan and Ohio teams. The A team did half the MDL games, plus had their Regional (GLC) games and National League, although that was limited to just one playoff event in Orlando last year.

    This year, we're still in the NPL league, but now we have the added two regional leagues (with two national showcases). Plus, I assume we'll be involved with State Cup as well.

    I believe there is also an Ohio State League, but our club doesn't participate in that.
     
  13. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    I agree, it's a fine line. As you get into the older age groups (say U15 & Up), you're going to have some players on the (top level teams at least) who have aspirations of playing in college. You'll have others that have no desire to. So part of the team wants/needs to see better competition/go to showcases. Others, not so much. BUT, the "better" showcases (ie: more on site coaches) are further away (at least for us).

    Granted, no one is going to get offered a scholarship on the spot at a showcase (ok, maybe a VERY few). But hopefully a coach will see something at a showcase that will get them interested to do some more follow up?
     
  14. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    Make that State Cup. A team at the President's Cup level might find more level-appropriate competition closer to home.
     
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  15. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    Good point. My son's club teams were State Cup champions for a couple of years running. That's the one we traveled far for. My daughter's team competes at President's Cup level (actually won the state this year... first time a team from our county won a state competition). They don't travel very far. Even tournaments are generally within a 2-3 hour radius.
     
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  16. justanothersoccerdad

    Apr 5, 2021
    #16 justanothersoccerdad, Oct 2, 2021
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2021
    I struggle with this subject, mainly because I live in a small Appalachian city with an ambitious, no-BS, hard-working U15 daughter who simply doesn't tolerate anything subpar. That subpar umbrella includes our local club, which is basically a boy-centric operation---historically speaking---that simply hasn't kept pace with the times.

    On the girls side of said local club, much affection is showered on the precious children of the wealthy/connected types (particularly those in real estate), and while my wife and I are fairly well-off, we're not connected to the scene in that manner. To say that some of the less-connected talented, hard-working girls don't always prosper at this particular club---and to characterize my daughter's past and current relationship with this organization as "tense"---doesn't truly capture the full extent of the situation, but that's a very long tale.

    Where the subject of this thread is concerned, the important point is that she now plays for a ECNL-affiliated club that's situated 2 to 2.5 hours (depending on the complex) to our east. She's very happy there---she likes her U15 ECRL coach (as well as several other coaches at the club), likes the ECRL program director, and has a lot in common with the girls on her team. That being said, this situation is very much at the outer limits of what's tolerable for our family. If she were any younger (what with the spring being involved at those younger ages), it simply wouldn't be doable.

    I suppose what I'm getting at here is that I tend to side with those who proclaim that the travel expectations/requirements are totally absurd. On the other hand, absurdity is in the eye of the beholder and every situation is indeed different. If you can afford it, and your kid is committed...well...there are certainly worse things to do with your time/money. I do think it pays to recognize that it's very easy to find yourself doing things that will seem like complete lunacy to someone who's outside of the scene, but the world needs lunatics, too (lol).

    Also recognize---and help your family's player(s) recognize---that the current youth-soccer club/league system in the U.S. simply isn't good for the sport. That's the bald truth. To participate or not to participate in that system...yes, that is a significant question---either way, though, be aware of the truth. What's also important is that you and your player educate yourselves about the club landscape, the politics, the potential potholes that riddle the yellow-brick soccer road, etc. as much as you can. Everything should be as intentional (apologies for the buzzword, but it fits)---and oriented towards the "what is," rather than some pie-in-the-sky, nothing-but-full-ride-scholarships future---as possible.
     
  17. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    Yessir, 100 percent on this one.

    We're in a similar situation geographically (outside a major metro area), and as I mentioned earlier, have crossed all kinds of lines I once swore wouldn't be crossed. Count us among the lunatics.

    Issues of homework in the car and that kind of thing aside, a carpool has helped us quite a bit, but you have to find the other local players and families willing to make the same commitment. We're lucky we have a few (and the pandemic has tested that -- we dropped out of the carpool for most of the spring, so my car and I increased our road time quite a bit).
     
  18. soccerdad72

    soccerdad72 Member

    Chelsea
    United States
    Apr 5, 2021
    I will say that we are fortunate in one regard - we do live in the suburbs of a metro area (Cleveland), so luckily, the farthest we've ever had to travel for trainings has been 20-30 minutes each way. And at times, we've been a couple minutes from our house. We have some kids in the club who travel over an hour each way for practices.

    Added bonus - now that our son is 16, we don't have to drive him anymore. ;)
     
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  19. soccerdad72

    soccerdad72 Member

    Chelsea
    United States
    Apr 5, 2021
    Quick update, in case anyone cares.

    It turns out that all of the weekends of games starting next week are being divided up between the full 2005 roster in our club (40 players or so), plus another 2005 team that our team is affiliated with (same club umbrella), so nobody will be doing more than two trips in Nov/Dec. Right now, the Florida showcase is my son's only scheduled games for the rest of this calendar year.
     
  20. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    We have the Gateway showcase in Cinci in a couple of weeks, a state league ge the week after that.

    Next year is Fl in Feb (snagged $100rt tix on SW), and possibly Richmond, Va in April.

    We're in Midwest Regional, so no telling where else we'll be going.
     
  21. TheKraken

    TheKraken Member

    United States
    Jun 21, 2017
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I'm really glad you posted this. The distances required for good players to travel in the US puts us at a disadvantage. Not just travel to go play a game, but in your case, just to go practice with a competitive club. Soccer is a 4th sport at best here and there is little groundwork or logistics for players from small towns to get ahead. The ODP model tries this, but it's been outmatched by big money clubs in large cities, who don't have any need to send their kids to it. It's all varying degrees of this though. My son plays in an ECNL-R club which is local for me. To get to a full ECNL club is a two hour drive. Eventually, you have to declare what is most important for your family as a whole and what you are willing to sacrifice. I know some families who do the 2 hour drive, three times a week, pulling their kid out of school a little early just to make the practice. I cannot do that just from a work perspective and I don't think getting home so late three days a week would be good for my son. I don't judge the family that does that though. It's a personal decision and if everyone is onboard then so be it.
     
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  22. justanothersoccerdad

    Apr 5, 2021
    It's true, and I should add that we wouldn't be doing what we're doing without said club allowing my daughter to train locally on Wednesdays. This club likes her enough to provide us with flexible options (e.g., we can choose different nights to train, if something comes up that affects our regular T/TH team-training schedule). No-nonsense communication, before tryouts and immediately thereafter (and beyond), was/is key.

    The prime mover in the equation, though, is the player, and mine just wasn't satisfied---at all---with playing for a local club that wasn't hungry enough to field girls teams which were capable of ascending to the USYS National League level on a semi-regular basis. It definitely didn't help that the local club simply refused to "see" my daughter for the off-the-charts worker that she is, which is unfortunate---her personality isn't the type that grants third chances, nor is it one that's prone to playing stupid games for stupid prizes. Since I didn't want to see her give up the sport that she loves unconditionally, I helped her to find a solution that would 'work' (no, I certainly don't always love that boring drive---lol) for all involved.

    There's nothing wrong with a solid ECRL-affiliated club, so I certainly wouldn't recommend shifting away from it. My sense is that, in many states, the ECRL setup is attempting to fix what's broken with ODP. Not to pile on with the negative vibes, but ODP (yes, she's tried it, too) seems to be in a long-term death spiral.
     
  23. soccerdad72

    soccerdad72 Member

    Chelsea
    United States
    Apr 5, 2021
    Ironic follow up to my update...

    Got an email on Saturday afternoon from our team manager. Turns out, the team from the affiliated club that was going to the showcase in Rockford, IL this upcoming weekend can't go. The whole team apparently can't make it, so they were desperately looking for players from our club to see if they would go. My son politely asked not to go - he said he didn't know who else from his team was going, plus his school's football team is playing Friday night in the regional semis and he's scheduled to work on Sunday. It's probably the first time he's ever turned down a chance to play, but this is so last minute to be asking people to drive 7 hours each way, plus take a day off of school.
     

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