We heap big praise on those families who are making numerous sacrifices in order to give their boy or girl the chance to attend tryouts for leagues and teams that are known for being more competitive (known in some sports as the "travel teams"). We know that virtually 100% of those athletes who ultimately play in high school and college are also participating in competitive leagues during the off-season from the school sessions.
If the boy or girl enjoys the sport well enough that they are willing to invest the time and effort to get better, then the opportunity exists for that to happen. Putting the child in the environment where they can experience the quicker game, the faster pitching, the better defense, and the better competition makes the transition to high school sports so much easier. If you allow your child to at least tryout for the better team, you are potentially opening the door to some very good things to happen. It breaks my heart when I see a child with a ton of talent not be able to show and develop his or her skills. At age 10 or 12, that child's "career" in athletics may be over if he or she is not given the opportunity to develop their skill against better competition.
We get only one chance in life to do certain things and one of those things is being 10-15 years old. That's the age when the opportunity usually presents itself from the travel teams. Those who eventually get to play on the big field or the crowded basketball gym on Friday nights earn their skills to play from those travel team experiences a few years earlier. We were blessed with three kids who eventually played college sports. And I can still remember when each of them came to the realization that they could compete at a high level of competition. What a sense of joy and accomplishment they earned inside of them when they made the connection between the work they had put in to the success they were enjoying.
I am the first to realize also that for financial reasons some families are not able to do what they would love to do. They just do not have the funds to afford the travel and the costs to be a part of a particular team or league. But my comments today are directed more to those who have the means to do it, but just don't bother. I bet that virtually every athlete today in high school or college can tell you what experience it was in their past that gave them their "breakout" sense of confidence. My hope is that parents do what they can to make that experience possible. Otherwise, you will never know what could have been achieved.