There are a lot of very good responses on this site and we have experienced a collage of the issues presented here.
My son is about to turn fourteen. At twelve, I had him involved in heavy winter training with three or four facilities/clubs (the closest ½ hour away and the farthest 2 ½ hours away). That summer he played across the border with a 50-60 game season. All of our games were a minimum of 2 hours and fifteen minutes each way. Like most winters, we went to a Florida baseball camp at March Break. On top of this he played for a city Rep basketball team and won the academic excellence award at his school. Always on the lookout for training opportunities and good teams, I got him on a fall ball team that year (again 1 ½ hours away) and signed him up for “elite” training (70 sessions between October and April).
My son hit burn-out in late summer both psychologically and physically (bicep tendonitis in his pitching arm – primarily growth related). The travel had a big part to do with it. He loved the game but, after playing on some powerhouse teams, it was becoming difficult to just go back home and play “regular” baseball.
I basically ate the better part of $1000 on the winter training, and set him up with a light baseball schedule with a team that was a couple of years older last summer. He’s mature for his age and got along with these rec-type players really well. Through this team we somehow connected with a man whose son is in his third year university on a baseball scholarship in Alabama. Things sort of progressed naturally, and my son started taking hitting lessons from this guy. Now he is going two days a week – his choice. We don’t have to travel far and this guys knowledge and ability is every bit as good as guys that we used to pay a small fortune to. This summer he will be playing for a decent team in a competitive league. He’s looking forward to baseball and putting his new swing to the test.
Rather than living in the cages this winter, he’s been three days a week with a top level basketball team in a nearby city. He’s having fun and the running is making him far more athletic than any indoor workouts would do.
It’s easy to get caught up in the bigger-better-faster-more of competitive youth sports. Looking back, there were a number of camps (typically coupled with the words elite – that did little other than to spend a lot of time in a group lesson). I’m not saying that my son wasn’t slightly better as a baseball player because of it but now, at 6’ and 180 pounds with better motor skills, etc., he can do things that he used to spend hours on in minutes.
We went right to the edge (of burn out) and came back. I don’t think many people get that chance. We were lucky in that we could communicate well and decided to deal with the issue. It wasn’t the lack of love for the game – it was that the price to be paid was getting too high.
It’s my observation that the path is different for everyone. If you find that things change for your son someday – he might be getting close to the edge. There are ways to avoid burn out but, my experience is they don’t involve plunging onward – full speed ahead.
Also, don’t freak out too much about the PS3. As long as my guy keeps his marks up over 80, and meets his practise commitments, I let him play. Last Sunday he was on the PS3 until 3:00 am and I told him if he stayed up late, he would still get up at 9:00 to go to practise. It’s hard wresting a 13YO that weighs the same and is 3” taller than you. It took me some time but, Mr. Bleary eyes was on his feet at 9:05 a.m. Generally, he’s learning to make the right choices and get balance.