Making the Travel Tournament Experience the Best it Can Be

By Jon Buzby | Posted 10/18/2019

Many travel teams make it an annual tradition to enter at least one destination tournament.

Sometimes the destination involves an airplane, while others might be in reasonable driving distance. But no matter how teams get there, making sure it’s a great experience once they arrive is critical to accomplishing what many consider the main objective: team bonding. It’s not just among players, but families as well, which often include non-playing siblings tagging along.

Here are a few hints:

Don’t schedule a team function on the tournament travel day. Families are bound to arrive at varying times well into the evening. Scheduling a formal get-together that some players most likely will miss goes against the “team bonding” philosophy.

Refrain from organizing a caravan from the hotel to the fields. Allow families to depart from the hotel and in some cases, make stops along the way without the pressure of being part of a parade to the game. Whether it’s a stop to get gas, a second cup of coffee or a forgotten toothbrush, each family’s unique situation is less stressful without the pressure of their child missing out on a caravan.

Try to plan something to do as a team when there are long periods of downtime in between games. When doing so, keep in mind that the afternoon game is just as important as the morning one. So, players shouldn’t be worn out.

Our team recently spent three hours between games at a state park. Each family went to pick up a picnic lunch to bring along, the players fished (pre-planned so they had their rods), the parents visited and played cornhole and the siblings enjoyed the playground. Everyone was happy. It was the perfect way to spend a few hours instead of arguing with the players about why they couldn’t spend it exhausting themselves in the hotel pool.

Plan a team dinner at a local spot. Ideally, reserve a room ahead of time to ensure prompt and quality service. When planning this meal, keep in mind costs and appetites. What we parents consider a great place to eat might not have a kids-friendly menu. Also, remember that what might be easily affordable for the father and son making the trip might not be for a family of six.

Lastly, don’t feel like every hour of the trip has to be scheduled. Give families a chance for some time on their own, just like we adults enjoy when attending out-of-town business meetings or conferences.

So how do you accomplish all of this? If one parent steps up to plan the activity between games and another makes dinner arrangements, your team will be set.

Destination tournaments take time and are expensive regardless of the location. It’s important that when it’s over and you’re packing up the car to head home with or without a championship trophy, everyone looks back on the experience as a great one.

Jon Buzby has been involved in and writing about youth sports for the past 30 years with perspectives as a parent, coach and board member. Jon is an award-winning writer and his latest book, “Coaching Kids Made Easier,” is available on Amazon. Send comments or future blog topics you'd like to see to and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.