My son played on the "best" 9u team in our town, and it was recognized by the community as the best for one reason--we had the best coach. He picked players with strong work ethic and willingness to learn, wit's parents who were supportive. He avoided players with attitude. He picked players who could be taught, and he taught them to both play and love the game.
How long ago was this? What happened to those players? Did they go on to success? How big is your town? I think I am getting your point but I am not sure that is why the questions. I think yo u are saying that travel ball is unimportant at that age. Cause these aren't really the type of teams we are talking about. Unless you live in a big town - like 300000 plus or something. See I really believe that 9 year old travel team inspired him. He loved his tee ball and coach pitch. But that travel ball opened his eyes to another level. Its not that the concept or the winning was such a big deal. And certainly not the coaching. But just seeing the beauty of the game when played by really really talented little kids. Made him want to be one of those. MIne is 14u this year and high school next. We have no idea where this journey will end. I will say this though the experience has clearly been a benefit. Maybe its different for different kids but for him its been the best. I think if my kid was naturally super talented I would think it wouldn't matter as much. But for him it drives him to keep competing with kids who are better athletes than him. Same in basketball. Once he started playing AAU ball he started getting better and better. He was the last kid on the team and pretty much used for defensive purposes. He loved it. Got so much better practicing against those kids. He still is with the same team but now practices only and subs when they are short. He has no desire (or time really) to play with a lesser AAU team so he can be a main guy. I guess its all what you are looking for. And maybe as is usually the case its just that simple - do what is best for your son!