So I, like many, happily sent my child at age 13 to a costly baseball organizer and out of daddy ball. It seems at said academy (starting our second year) there is a LOT of standing around waiting for your short turn in the batting cage or turn on the field. Any true improvement seems to come with extra $$ private individual lessons. Daddy ball seemed to be much better at station work and no standing around. I want to approach the management but don’t want to be “that parent”. Am I expecting too much? Is this the expectation now? 

Original Post

Congratulations! You’ve figured out how academies make their money ...

”We see potential in your son. But he’s going to need individual instruction to get there. Now if you look on our alumni wall you will see all the D1 and pros that came through here. Maybe your son’s name could be on the wall some day.”

The reality is the best place to play is where your son gets the most individual attention. By high school you will probably discover a majority of the best players spent a lot of time with dad pitching to them and hitting them balls.

Academy type travel teams don’t matter until a kid is being promoted to college ball. This doesn’t mean there aren’t some good academy programs before 16u. But I watched a lot of parents fork over a lot of money starting at early ages assuming it was a guaranteed avenue to college ball.

Note: A kid I know made it to AAA. An academy claimed him as theirs. His father rented a hitting lane one day when it was raining when the kid was 13.

Herewego,

My experience was vastly different.  There (quickly) came a time when my son's had outgrown my instruction and knowledge.  It became necessary to find an academy and instructors that challenged my kids and gave them things to work on outside the academy (homework).....so Dad still had a role their development.  I was still throwing BP, bought them a hitting net & tee, and caught their bullpens.   However, when they hit 80+ on the mound it was time to get a real high school catcher with gear.   Heck, I was helping my oldest son throw long toss when he was home from college in the winter.  Bottom line for me was I got to help them with their baseball homework and I got to spend quality time with them.

If your son is waiting to do anything at an academy I question the academy resources or the class size.    Are there other academies in your area?  As my (3) kids got older and stronger it became necessary for them to have private pitching lessons.   Pitching mechanics are so important.    There was a lot of value to the private lessons, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.   If you aren't getting value from your academy  possibly  you are at the wrong academy.

Good luck!

I fly to Florida in a couple hours with my son FOR THE LAST TRAVEL BALL TOURNAMENT EVER! I am looking forward to the trip and tournament, and also looking forward for the change that comes with the end of travel ball.

The posts by RJM and Fenway above are both true. I think I experienced a good bit of the monetizing of select/travel baseball in the Houston area.  Even some very good guys that have helped my son along the way (baseball lifers/travel coaches), detested what was happening to baseball development.  But they had to go with it if they wanted to make a living coaching baseball.

I have listened to everyone along the way.  I have also made my own decisions, even when someone was persistent that I was doing the wrong thing.  My son and I know our situation/goals and what we think better than anyone giving advice. But I still listened to others advice.

Two of the bigger things I did early on was to resist any travel beyond 30 miles when my son was very young and going into the twelve year old year, pay an organization to coach him instead of dads.  But to each his own.

To lure the top players in, academies went cheap for the older kids and started charging the younger players a small fortune and justified the cost by their facilities and ex pro staff. The 17 year olds paying half the cost start committing and they go up on the wall at the facility. Parents see this and want the same for their kid. They start getting in sooner and the kids start leaving rec to play 10u Elite ball and soon enough academies were pushing out multiple teams per age group and making a ton of money doing it. The goal of the facility is college commitments and getting people to spend money. So if your kid is good but not great the solution isn't to work on xyz, the solution is 2 60 minute private lessons a week. 

Find a team where your kid can develop, when he is ready to get put in front of schools that is when you feed the machine. At that point the major development is over and it is just fine tuning. Something the facility will gladly do if it gets his name on the commitment wall. 

In the preteen years I put together a travel team that was a prep team for LL all stars. The roster was the fifteen mostly likely kids to be the eleven or twelve to make all stars. The idea was to play better competition than the LL regular season on Sunday and teach a team full of p, c, ss and cf how to play their potential all star position. I picked my coaches not the league. But they were dads from the league.

When my son was eleven during a rain delay of a LL all star game I chatted with the opposing coach. We decided to out together a team at 13u of kids we felt would be fun to train into high school players for three years and had real talent. We both played college ball. We started keeping track of  the best players in our LL district. We also started investigating the dads for who played college ball and would be interested in instructing and coaching. The big draw to the team was a pitching coach who an SEC All American and made it to AAA. The fee to play was whatever covered costs. It was about $600 to play ten tournaments. 

When my son got to varsity I asked him how knowledgeable the coaching staff was with instruction. He said very good. But he had already learned everything they were teaching from the travel team coaching staff.

Not every dad with a kid playing baseball has my background. I know a dad who found a dad who played college ball and put together the same kind of team. All the dad who started the team did was recruit players and administration. This team was also about $600 per summer.

If my kid was asked to play for a team with four dad coaches I would start with questions to make sure it’s not daddy ball. My first two questions would be 1) What positions do the coach’s kids play? 2) Is it warranted? In my team’s situation my son was his school’s shortstop and didn’t win the starting shortstop job on the travel team. We had three players who became all conference shortstops at their high school. 

Some of our players also got instruction at academies. But it was their choice. I called the academies to make sure the kids weren’t being pulled in two directions with instruction. 

Not all academies require you to go through them for lessons/instruction. Both my kids play on what you would consider academy teams. I don't think any player uses them for lessons and it's never pushed. They basically expect you to come prepared to play.

 coached my kids travel teams until 13, then I did some research on academies. we found good ones (2) with good training and practice habits. They trained like HS teams and it showed. No regrets, very few dads could do what they did. 

You aren't at the proper place, move on and find one that is correct. 

Not all academies are the same. There is some due diligence needed before handing over the check.  Some facility travel teams permit free tunnel time during off hours to make sure your kid gets the reps. There are travel tourney team fees that only cover uniforms, tourney fees and of course a stipend to the coaches or in your case limited training time herding through stations.

fenwaysouth posted:

  I was still throwing BP, bought them a hitting net & tee, and caught their bullpens.   However, when they hit 80+ on the mound it was time to get a real high school catcher with gear.  

80 mph used to be the number that I stopped catching bullpens, but the older I get, the lower the number is.  I think a lot of parents don't realize how much the ball can start to do odd things once the speed goes up, nvm the breaking balls in the dirt with the aggressive kicks.

 

 I finally broke down and bought some used catcher's gear so i don't have welts on my shins, and so i can keep my perfect profile intact.

 

   When the eldest comes back and we do a bit of long toss he just fires the ball to me from a big bucket. He might throw 300+'...I sure don't, and won't even try.

LOL 57 Special.  I also had some catchers gear on to save shins, mask to save teeth, and a cup just in case.  They don't call catching "the tools of ignorance" for nothing.   I loved catching when I was younger, so this was fun for me in some twisted way.    My oldest used to throw a mean knuckleball, but he was never allowed to throw it in a college game.   I caught it with a softball first baseman's mitt.   It really was a great pitch.    My long toss was exacting as you describe it...more of a long catch then put it in the bucket for my son to retrieve.  Great minds thinks alike!

PABaseball posted:

To lure the top players in, academies went cheap for the older kids and started charging the younger players a small fortune and justified the cost by their facilities and ex pro staff. The 17 year olds paying half the cost start committing and they go up on the wall at the facility. Parents see this and want the same for their kid. They start getting in sooner and the kids start leaving rec to play 10u Elite ball and soon enough academies were pushing out multiple teams per age group and making a ton of money doing it. The goal of the facility is college commitments and getting people to spend money. So if your kid is good but not great the solution isn't to work on xyz, the solution is 2 60 minute private lessons a week. 

Find a team where your kid can develop, when he is ready to get put in front of schools that is when you feed the machine. At that point the major development is over and it is just fine tuning. Something the facility will gladly do if it gets his name on the commitment wall. 

But not every player/family has the ability or resources to get to the level of being seen.  I have been around a lot of rec ball and it is not good, but I also say travel ball is watered down now also.  I get the parents that come to me all the time and want me to take their kid and make him like mine.  But mine started travel ball at 6 playing 8Ukid pitch (go ahead and bash me but it is the truth and almost every kid off that team is playing college ball of some form and 1 was drafted second round last year by Yankees.  I learned with my older two that rec ball was not the answer and was not going through the frustration with my third kid).  I do not charge much in perspective of academies but I am the only hope for many of them in my area to get their kids better.  I give lessons to every softball and baseball rec coach in our town including our HS HC.  I never paid for a lesson for my youngest son as by then I had learned a lot and he had good travel coaches and two older brothers.  But I do know the parents that academies and lesson givers are their only answer. 

I don't understand the lingo difference between some who use the phrase academies and those who give private lessons.  Academies are just larger forms of what I do and have multiple people who give lessons and coach teams.  As in everything in life, some are good and some are not.  Some are in it for the money and some are in it to teach kids.

Having just come out the other side of navigating the travel ball landscape I'll throw out some observations.

  • A baseball academy is a small business that requires a great deal of management.  In my opinion its very difficult for a person (or family) to both run a successful small business and also keep up on the very latest advancements in hitting/pitching.  I've found that the best instructors don't really have much time for coaching teams.
  • An academy can specialize on one side of the ball.  My son played 14U for an organization that was very advanced on the pitching side (Driveline program etc.) and was woefully ignorant of the latest hitting philosophies.
  • Academies have a lot of mouths to feed.  Sure the top guys may have great contacts, but if they have 2 or 3 teams at 4 different age groups how much time do they have to make calls on your son's behalf?

If I had to do it over again, I'd first focus on getting the very best individual instruction possible.  Maximizing that will make a player attractive to any number of teams.  Then find a team where there is the right combination of playing time and high level competition.  

I think NYCDAD makes a strong point. They expect you to come ready to play. I am fine with that and agree. But they do “practice “. Son gets lots of reps still with dad and occasional private hitting, pitching and running lessons and is doing great. It’s the lack of organization and down time the kids have at practice. They have a great time and the boys seem to love their time there but there are no adjustments made or advice b/c they have to move so many through the cage. Really tough for my switch hitter - only gets half per side. I guess I expect more practice at practice. All the teams seem to practice this way. He loves his team. Do I bring it up or just suck it up and keep with extra lessons. 

HEREWEGO- Either suck it’s up or move to another program.  I can guarantee you the conversation where you give the academy director your advice isn’t going to go well. Having heard parents recount the stories, or watching them unfold live and in color, of how they wanted to change something about the practices/training offered by a program and the aftermath from that, it never ends well and never changes anything. Don't do it. Yes, you are the customer, but these guys rarely welcome “advice” on how to do their job better.

Decide that this is the best fit available or move on. (Perfect doesn’t exist).  

 

Herewego posted:

Yeah it seems silly to say anything. Will ride out this year and do some digging around for next year. He’s having a blast which is the most I can ask for.

It’s your kid, so of course it’s important to you. I completely understand the sense of urgency.  But realistically a few wasted minutes are easily combatted by an extra session with dad. And they are still kids, a little downtime waiting in line with buddies helps keep it fun (depending on the age of your player). 

Herewego posted:

Yeah it seems silly to say anything. Will ride out this year and do some digging around for next year. He’s having a blast which is the most I can ask for.

Your involvement as he gets older will be whittled down to uber driver then pure spectator when he gets a license. As the previous poster stated, rent a tunnel and get him some at bats. If you could swing it, find a hittrax facility, this will be quality father/son time you will miss very soon

My 2021 son moved from one academy to another recently.

the first academy team he was at had absolutely fantastic practices.  Great instruction, development, not much standing around, barely any time for a water break.  My kid learned a ton.  Unfortunately the program was unbelievably disorganized with most other aspects of running a travel team, they shied away from playing in the best tournaments, and had no recruiting structure in place that we could see.

The new academy is as organized in communication as you could ever hope for.  They have a proven track record of getting players into colleges at all levels, as well as the MLB draft and have a complete structure of multiple coaches who work on the players' behalf to get kids placed in college programs.  They play in the best tournaments.  Their practices are good, not *wow* like the other place.  We are pretty thrilled with the change.

PitchingFan posted:
PABaseball posted:

To lure the top players in, academies went cheap for the older kids and started charging the younger players a small fortune and justified the cost by their facilities and ex pro staff. The 17 year olds paying half the cost start committing and they go up on the wall at the facility. Parents see this and want the same for their kid. They start getting in sooner and the kids start leaving rec to play 10u Elite ball and soon enough academies were pushing out multiple teams per age group and making a ton of money doing it. The goal of the facility is college commitments and getting people to spend money. So if your kid is good but not great the solution isn't to work on xyz, the solution is 2 60 minute private lessons a week. 

Find a team where your kid can develop, when he is ready to get put in front of schools that is when you feed the machine. At that point the major development is over and it is just fine tuning. Something the facility will gladly do if it gets his name on the commitment wall. 

But not every player/family has the ability or resources to get to the level of being seen.  I have been around a lot of rec ball and it is not good, but I also say travel ball is watered down now also.  I get the parents that come to me all the time and want me to take their kid and make him like mine.  But mine started travel ball at 6 playing 8Ukid pitch (go ahead and bash me but it is the truth and almost every kid off that team is playing college ball of some form and 1 was drafted second round last year by Yankees.  I learned with my older two that rec ball was not the answer and was not going through the frustration with my third kid).  I do not charge much in perspective of academies but I am the only hope for many of them in my area to get their kids better.  I give lessons to every softball and baseball rec coach in our town including our HS HC.  I never paid for a lesson for my youngest son as by then I had learned a lot and he had good travel coaches and two older brothers.  But I do know the parents that academies and lesson givers are their only answer. 

I don't understand the lingo difference between some who use the phrase academies and those who give private lessons.  Academies are just larger forms of what I do and have multiple people who give lessons and coach teams.  As in everything in life, some are good and some are not.  Some are in it for the money and some are in it to teach kids.

I don't have a problem with academies, in fact I wish I got in on one early. I don't have a problem with lessons either as I've paid for them at one point or another. I could just never justify the cost of the academy team and is not something I would consider until it was time to recruit and there other options were thin. Unless you are one of the top guys on the team you are just another dollar sign for the academy. They are businesses first and they are run like one, which is fine, just not something I would choose to be part of unless absolutely necessary. 

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