I used to hate this time of year. If you’re the parent of a travel baseball player, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s that time of year when you turn into a sports agent for your child. It’s the season that makes Lebron James picking a basketball team seem like a walk in the park. The most stressful weeks of the summer. Every summer. Before I go any further, let me set some ground rules for this post.

  1. I am writing this 100% as a parent that has been through the battles from t-ball to now. I may work at Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports, but I’m not wearing that hat as I type this. Just sharing the knowledge we’ve gained in the past 10+ years.
  2. Each and every one of us have different goals and dreams when it comes to why our kids compete in travel sports. For some it’s fun in the sun with friends. For others it’s dreams of continuing their career in college somewhere. Here’s the important thing for all of us, both are absolutely okay. There’s not a right or wrong or bad or good. Choose the opportunity that helps you achieve what you and your child are aiming for.

I have said this and will continue to say this as long as I have breath….The best advice I can give any parent of an athlete is this – You give them the bike. Where they go and how hard they work to get there is 100% up to them. Give them the best bike you can afford to give them. Give them the tools they need. Then, let go of the handlebars. Cheer them along the way, but let go of the handlebars.

Several months ago we were meeting with our College Financial Planner and his tone got very serious. He said “you need to have a talk with your son. You need to find out if college baseball is a goal he has. If it is, then continue doing what you’re doing. If it is not, then our planning and conversation needs to change.” Wow. After all these years of playing on travel teams and “going where the stream takes us,” we were now at a point where we needed to put some structure and planning around this whole thing. We had the conversation and he said “yes, I want to play baseball in college.”

Thanks to the hard work (much on his own), our son has put himself in a position to potentially pursue one of his goals of playing baseball at the next level. He doesn’t currently have dreams of playing in the Major Leagues, but 4 more years in the sun while chasing a degree does sound fun. This is where we get to the meat of this post and story.

2 years ago, Austin joined the Black Sox travel baseball team from Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports. We knew going in that there would be significant benefits for playing for the Black Sox. They practice year round inside the dome. He would have membership to the facility and could continue to work on his craft. He would have access to former players and coaches. He would have access to the OSU Sports Medicine team located right inside The Dome. There were a number of other appealing features that made this a no-brainer. What I never anticipated is what would come a year later after our conversation with our Financial Planner.

After successful seasons with the Black Sox and in High School, Austin was offered the opportunity to join the Bo Jackson Elite team for this summer (earned, not given). This was an entirely different level of travel baseball. 8 of the players have already committed to Division I baseball programs (Ohio State, Ohio University, Ohio Dominican, Wright State). He would now find himself playing with and competing against the best teams in Ohio. Each weekend is more about showcasing talent than winning tournaments. We regularly see scouts behind the backstops watching each game. If this was about providing the bike, Lance Armstrong would be jealous of the kind of bike he was being offered. He obviously said “yes.”

Our baseball staff at The Dome were also quick to assist. As with every player on our teams, they provided information and a road map to help figure out how we go from “I want to play college baseball” to creating a short list of schools he is interested in. As the summer progressed, the list has moved and changed (he is currently uncommitted but working towards a decision) but they’ve been there every step of the way. They’ve helped us weed out the emails from colleges promising big things and only wanting to profit to the serious requests about his potential and interest in him. Their relationship with area coaches has been so valuable in getting him “seen” and in front of opportunities.

At one point this summer, one valuable contact from the dome sent him an email after a tough outing. It was short but powerful. The best line simply said “you belong.” To have an outside source give you the confidence to take the mound again is powerful and words can’t express my appreciation.

When complaints of neck soreness lingered, we made the way down the hall to The Ohio State University Sports Medicine Team for a quick check-up. What a valuable resource to have right there at The Dome. They took care in getting to the bottom of the soreness, recommended some exercises and care and he was back on the mound the next weekend. Peace of mind between the ears for a pitcher is often a majority of battle. A free visit to the caring staff at OSU was even better.

I should take one step back and mention that from the first game of the High School season, our baseball staff was asking about his pitch counts, recovery and between start workouts. Even when he wasn’t playing for our teams, our staff was looking out for his arm care and recovery. They do this with all of our players. Not just our pitchers or because I am on staff.

Dr. James Onate of The Ohio State University is on the cutting edge of sports research. In addition to his full-time job, he oversees all of the Sports Performance programming at Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports. As if that wasn’t enough, he also coaches for a local High School. Our son pitched against his team in week one of the High School season. In the weeks that followed, Dr. Onate talked to Austin at The Dome while they were both there one day. He asked about his season, his goals and his workouts. He is often quoted as saying “it takes a village to raise a baseball player.”

The point of this entire post is that some day over the next several months, our son may choose from a number of schools to continue his baseball career. No matter where or what he chooses, I will never forget the “village” that has helped to raise our baseball player. From all of the coaches early on in his travel days to our entire team (OSU, Black Sox, Bo Jackson Elite) at BJES, we are so thankful for each one. You’ve all left your finger prints on his career no matter where it ends.

It does take a village and I’m glad you have all been a part of ours.