Travel Football Has Arrived and Prep Coaches Don’t Like It

A story published by USA Today this week describes how the recent National Federation of State High School Associations annual meeting spent a good deal of time discussing and worrying over the growth of 7-on-7 All-Star football tournaments.  Seems the coaches are concerned they are being left out while interlopers are stepping in as key figures for players.  Well, guys, welcome to everybody else’s world.

For decades football and its coaches have reveled in the fact that they were in essence the only one-season sport left in high school athletics.  This was due to a simple fact — there was no such thing as travel football.  This put high school coaches in, some would say, the admirable position of being able to control their players 12 months a year while all around them travel and club teams in practically every other sport were operating outside of the high school coaches’ control.  The phenomenal growth of All-Star, travel 7-on-7 tournaments has put the shoe on the other foot, as it were, and prep coaches don’t like being pushed aside so that other people can handle their athletes.

It’s not an uncommon argument.  For years, many high school coaches in basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, swimming, soccer, et. al, complained about the same thing.  They viewed travel and club sports as the evil twin which was attracting their athletes to a sinister world where all their coaching and training gets undone by others.  It’s taken years for most of them to come to the realization that travel and club sports can actually improve their athletes’ performances as they get exposure to tougher-than-high-school competition.   

So, the day has come.  Football coaches are now privileged to feel their peers’ pain.  Loss of control is a blindsided smack in the face to many high school football coaches.  They don’t want intruders and they don’t yet see the advantages of the added experience their athletes can potentially absorb from these highly competitive events.  Moreover, it means that in some cases, the high school coaches will be circumvented by college coaches in the recruiting process and that scares them to death. 

Another argument is that the time athletes spend on 7-on-7 tournaments takes away from their high school team and teammates.  It’s the rehashing of an old story told by other prep sports coaches in years past. 

The bottom line is that schedules can be worked out and allowing young athletes to experience heightened competition and added exposure can only be good for the athlete and for the coach and team he rejoins. 

We suggest that high school football coaches chill a bit.  Use the evolution of the relationship between club and travel sports with their high school counterpart coaches as an example of how to avoid unnecessary problems.  Travel ball is not all bad and like it or not, it’s here to stay in one form or the other.  Look for the good and build off that platform.


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