Recreational vs Select/Travel Sports

The Hustle & Attitude philosophy I am espousing relates to positive youth recreational sports experiences.  Why do I specify recreational sports?  Because there is a difference between youth recreational sports and youth select/sports leagues and teams.

Perhaps a story would help make the difference clear.  A good friend of mine told me about his son’s experience in youth recreational soccer years ago.  His son, we’ll refer to him as ‘B’, was a very good and competitive soccer player.  My friend recounted that B was playing wing one game and dribblingSoccer Player the ball up the side of the field.  In soccer – youth soccer, in particular – the play is often to cross the ball into the center in order to set up a scoring opportunity.  B did just that.  And the ball crossed all the way across the middle of the field and went out of bounds on the other side.  Turns out B’s teammates were not as into the game as he was.  They either didn’t know what they were supposed to do or weren’t willing to put in as much effort as B.  He could easily have dribbled the ball into the center of the field and set up his own scoring opportunity.  But, the right thing to do within the game is to cross the ball.  But it wasn’t working…B was getting negative results within the sport for doing the right thing – and this was very discouraging to him.  B and his father talked about it and realized that playing in a recreational league would not satisfy his competitive desires.  They looked into local select soccer teams.  B tried out for one and has been playing for years with other boys who are competing as diligently as he is.

Select sports teams differ from youth recreational sports teams in player selection, playing time, and purpose.

  • Player Selection:  In youth recreational sports leagues, every player that registers gets on a team.  Select and travel teams have tryouts and only a few players make the team.  In addition, the fees for players to register are higher for select and travel teams.
  • Playing Time:  As I have advocated, every player in a youth recreational sports league has the same opportunity to play – in terms of game playing time and playing multiple positions.  Players who make it on a select/travel team are not guaranteed playing time.  The best players at each position get the most playing time.
  • Purpose:  I believe the purpose of recreational sports leagues is to provide athletic opportunities for all youth.  I believe that the purpose of select/travel teams is to provide athletic opportunities for youth seeking competitive experiences in sport.  Recreational teams play each other in a regular season and then often and end of season tournament.  Perhaps there is an all star team selected and those players may continue to play (e.g. this is how Little League Baseball operates).  The idea is to allow the children in the neighborhood the greatest opportunity for a positive and fun sports experience.  Select/travel teams may play in a league, but most often play in tournaments across the region where they are located.  The idea is to compete and win in league and tournament play.

It’s not that the tenets of the Hustle & Attitude philosophy can’t be applied in youth select/travel sports leagues; coaches in all youth sports leagues would probably like to have all their players play and emphasize fun.  However, with different purposes come appropriate differences in player selection and playing time that explain why mine is a youth recreational sports philosophy.


Published by Chad Millette

I am a father, a husband, a retired Air Force officer, and a dedicated youth recreational sports advocate.

8 thoughts on “Recreational vs Select/Travel Sports

  1. Good thoughts. Compliments are a coaches tool that are more powerful than most coaches realize. Coaches seem to focus on the correcting mistakes instead of balancing correction and praise. Making a player truly believe that they have a positive element to contribute to the team can spark that “put me in coach” attitude. This is a huge victory in the coach/player relatioship, and will often blossom improved performance in other areas because of the confidence boost.


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