Yesterday marked the end of my son's summer travel tournament season.
In summary it was a soul scorching end for a terrific group of kids. We had nick named the team 'the semis' as that championship round alluded them all year.
They made it yesterday - and got trounced. Tears ensued from my sun drained, physically spent kid. So did a lot of sharing of emails, cell numbers and promises to get together to toss around later this summer. All in all an excellent experience.
For parents, any travel sport is an epic investment of time and money, but for my family, the experience offers the valuable opportunity to let my son explore an activity he loves, while learning an infinite number of life lessons. We will definitely be packing our gear and repeating this experience.
Head on a swivel - it's time to get focused on next year.
And like that, it's time to turn and get organized. 2016-2017 try outs start next week.
But buyer beware...
With the rapid growth of the lacrosse business the growth of travel teams has kept pace in lock step. As with anything that is growing at an outrageous rate, quality can suffer at the hand of expediency and economic gain.
Back in 2013, Inside Lacrosse shared a fairly negative perspective on the growth of mass produced club lacrosse. It's worth a read - especially since the message is just as on point today as it was three years ago. The article, written by Quint Kessenich who covers lacrosse for ESPN, catalogs a behavior pattern we absolutely were exposed to this past year.
His article points to programs that are economically benefiting from the promise to showcase youth 'talent' in front of scouts from top college programs. The math here is simple, the more names you can list as 'committed' on your website, the more interested parents (with their wallets open) will bring their kids to try outs. Practically speaking, who can blame program leaders from setting their businesses up to benefit from this kind of dream creation and match making...
But as one of those parents, the take-away is pretty straight forward - Sy Syms taught us with his catchy tag line - the educated consumer is the best consumer.
[Just in case you skipped it - don't forget to read Quint Kessenich's article. HERE]
For my money, if my kid is going to ask for another year of travel lacrosse, it's got to deliver more value than would repeated trips to the wall. And while time on the field is always awesome, and pure reps with friends are worth something, I want to know what I am getting up front - BEFORE I write a four digit check to the program director.
So this year, we are going to attend a number of tryouts and organize our thoughts around what each program offers. And then we'll decide as a family which is the best program to not only join, but to invest in for the long term.
Some of the questions we are going to ask each program are:
* Who coaches the 20XX team and will they be coaching at practices and games all year? If not how does your coaching staff work?
* Will the head coach have regular assistants and what are their backgrounds?
* Where will practices be held?
* How many players tried out last year and what was the acceptance rate?
* Does your program run A/B teams? If yes who coaches each during tournaments?
* What's your program's coaching philosophy?
* What's your program's conditioning philosophy?
* Will the team regularly practice during winter and spring?
* Does your program offer winter clinics, box lax or other options?
* At tournaments will the same coach be in attendance?
* At games does your coach spend off time with the team?
* What tournaments does your program attend? Where are they?
* Are tournament fees included in the travel team fees?
* At tournaments is the coach required to warm the team up between games?
* At tournaments does your program provide any amenities (tents, ice, food, drinks) or is that up to the parents to organize?
* If tournament resources are up to the parents how do you help organize this effort?
* At games do you have a dedicated medic or 'trainer' for the program?
* Who determines roster, lines and playing time?
* How are positions, lines and other game related stats communicated?
* How do you handle parent inquires about play time?
* How do you handle 'daddy ball' issues with parents? Examples?
* How much game strategy do you teach the players?
* Does your program have chalk talks?
* Who coaches the special teams? (FOGO, goalie, defense)
* Does your team have planned social events for the kids to get to know each other off the field?
Before you can even get to the list of questions, you need to do some work on what the alternatives are in your market. For us, we built a spreadsheet to collect the basics (linked here). The rest of the answers we are collecting real time for our market (linked here). Let's hope this list of questions and data collection tool jump start your efforts.
Remember - head on a swivel - the field of play just shifted and it's time to get ready for next year.
No time like the present to get your ducks in a row. It's time to listen to Yo Momma.