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In June 2023, we conducted a survey involving approximately 700 parents of baseball players regarding their experiences with travel teams. We aimed to present this data in an annual report called the State of Travel Ball, making it easily accessible to a broader audience. To assist parents, players, and coaches in forming their conclusions, we have focused primarily on presenting factual information rather than providing extensive commentary or opinionated analysis. This report seeks to answer the question: Is Travel Ball Worth it?
This data, like all data, should be taken skeptically. The bias from individuals self-selecting to take a survey about Travel Ball implies a lot and immediately skews the data. We aren’t interested in giving breathless commentary here, so we’ll let the data speak for itself. But, be sure, we know that such bias in the data exists, but that doesn’t make it useless or uninteresting.
About 2/3 of Travel Ball parents are satisfied with their experience. Although, as you will see below, most parents are satisfied, it costs a lot of money, a severe amount of time, and requires more than a week of sleeping somewhere else.
To be sure, this is respondents that play travel baseball, so the selection bias is real with this one. But, if you are considering travel baseball, do know that, at any given time, most parents appear to be happy with their decision to participate despite all its potential drawbacks.
After excluding families that reported zero team fees, our analysis shows that parents investing in travel baseball face significant financial commitments. On average, families spent approximately $2,178.25 on team fees in the most recent year. These costs varied considerably, with a standard deviation of about $1,411.04, indicating a broad distribution of expenses. At the lower end, we observed that 25% of families spent $1,000 or less, excluding those who reported zero costs. The median expenditure, a more representative measure of a ‘typical’ family’s spending due to the skew in our data, remained at $2,000. On the higher end, 25% of families spent up to $3,000, with the highest reported costs reaching $10,000. These figures underscore the substantial investment parents make to support their children’s involvement in travel baseball, reflecting the sport’s potential to foster enriching skills, experiences, and opportunities. Recognizing these financial commitments is essential as we continue exploring ways to enhance our programs’ value and impact.
On average, a travel baseball player participated in approximately 46 games per year and, based on our data collected, ranged from 3 to 100. The majority of players stayed between 20 and 60 games.
Compare that with the number of practices held. The average parent of a player reported 52 practices (one a week) per year. The median number of practices (that is the middle team) had around 45 practices. The vast majority of practices are between 24 to 75 players.
The scatter plot below visually compares the number of games played and practices attended by each individual in the dataset. Each point represents an individual, with the x-coordinate indicating the number of games played and the y-coordinate showing the number of practices attended.
We can see a positive correlation between the two variables, suggesting that individuals who attend more practice also tend to play more games and vice versa. However, there is some variation in this trend, with some individuals attending a large number of practices but playing fewer games and others playing a large number of games with fewer practices.
It’s also worth noting that a cluster of individuals attend around 45 practices and play around 45 games, which aligns with our earlier finding that the median number of games played and practices attended is 45.
The bar plot below shows the distribution of the number of months off from travel baseball as a percentage of total responses.
Here are the percentages for each category:
This analysis reveals that the majority of players (75.93%) have a break of 1-4 months in a year. A smaller percentage of players (21.67%) have a more extended break of 5 months or more. Only a tiny fraction of players (2.41%) have no months off.
These percentages provide a more nuanced understanding of the number of months off distribution, giving us insights into the typical rest periods and the intensity of engagement in travel baseball.
We also asked parents how many nights they spent away from home because of travel baseball. We know this answer often gets muddy as many family vacations are combined with travel tournaments. In any case, we asked the surveyed to give their best shot at how many nights they spend away from their home because of travel ball.
The practice distance data for travel baseball reveals that families travel approximately 15.5 miles for practice on average. The distance varies widely, ranging from a minimum of 0 miles to a maximum of 100 miles, indicating the diverse geographical spread of families involved in the sport. Despite this wide range, most families typically travel between 5 to 15 miles for practice, as revealed by the distribution analysis.
The median practice distance is 10 miles, suggesting that half the families travel ten or less for practice. This data underscores families’ significant travel commitments for practice sessions in travel baseball and the time commitments for games and practices. It highlights the extent of dedication and commitment that families demonstrate toward supporting their children’s involvement in the sport.
We asked each respondent about the future of their player in college ball. Specifically, will your player play ball in college? These are how the answers break down.
This analysis clearly shows the respondents’ varying intent and expectations of college baseball. While a considerable portion is definitely or probably interested, there is a significant level of uncertainty, with the largest group of respondents in the ‘maybe’ category. Only a tiny fraction have definitively ruled out college baseball.
Based on our respondents, over 50% of Travel Ball coaches are paid. Some are paid directly (10%) while the rest are paid through the team fees.
This analysis provides insights into the various ways in which coaches are compensated in travel baseball. The nearly even split between families who pay coach fees and those who do not have a paid coach suggests a diversity of coaching arrangements in the sport. A small but significant percentage of families pay their coach directly, outside of team fees, indicating a direct financial relationship. Finally, the fact that a sizable group is unsure about their coach’s compensation status underscores the complexity and variability of coaching arrangements in travel baseball.
Most respondents (42.77%) stated that position changes occur ‘sometimes.’ This was followed by ‘frequently’ (31.67%), ‘rarely’ (15.59%), and ‘almost never’ (9.97%). This suggests that for most players, changing positions is a relatively common occurrence in travel baseball, possibly reflecting the sport’s emphasis on versatility and broad skill development. However, 1 out of 4 teams tend to change their players positions infrequently.
The highest percentage of respondents (43.57%) indicated that the number of players on their team pitched was between 26-50%. This was followed by 51-75% (29.90%), 0-25% (18.17%), and 76-100% (8.36%). These findings indicate that most players are involved in pitching to some extent, although plenty of teams rely on a few arms.
Most respondents (75.12%) felt that coaches use pitchers adequately. However, a notable number of respondents (11.56%) felt that coaches do not use pitchers enough, while a similar percentage (10.75%) felt that coaches use pitchers too much. Only a tiny fraction of respondents (2.57%) disagreed on pitcher usage. These findings suggest that while most families are satisfied with how coaches handle pitchers, there are differing opinions on whether pitchers are used too much.
In conclusion, the State of Travel Ball survey conducted in June 2023 provides a comprehensive view of the experiences of approximately 700 parents of baseball players involved in travel teams. The survey reveals that despite the significant financial commitments, with an average annual cost of $2,178, and the time and travel demands, most parents are satisfied with their child’s participation in Travel Baseball. The data also highlights the varying intensity of engagement in the sport, with most players having a break of 1-4 months a year and families spending approximately eight nights away from home due to travel baseball.
Interestingly, the survey also uncovers the aspirations and expectations of the players, with a significant portion expressing a definite or probable interest in playing college baseball. However, a large group remains uncertain about this prospect. The survey also provides insights into the coaching arrangements in travel baseball, revealing that over 50% of Travel Ball coaches are paid, either directly or through team fees.