The annual Mountville 12U baseball tournament was held last weekend. I always look forward to this and the other local tournaments, many of which have been scheduled on the same weekends for years and years. They’re almost akin to holidays for me – something I highlight on my calendar and anticipate each year.
Tournaments offer unique opportunities for athletic teams to test their staying power against multiple and sometimes new opponents in a compressed time frame – frequently at new venues. There’s a level of intensity and excitement surrounding tournaments that can’t be found at most single game match-ups.
Over the years, the Indians have traveled from a few miles to several hundred miles to compete in tournaments of all varieties but, for me, the local tournaments have always held an especially appealing allure. Not only do they unite communities and foster enduring friendships, they also often supply the financial lifeblood that helps sustain and support the small organizations that sponsor them.
An increasing number of local tournaments have struggled or ceased to survive as travel all-star teams have grown in numbers. This is true not only for baseball, but also for many other sports. Players often play for both their community team and an “all-star” team. Sadly, many times travel team organizations and their coaches are less invested and interested in the local community and more focused on the development of a son-player, the perceived exposure to “scouts,” and/or the prestige and caliber of competition high-profile tournaments may provide for an aspiring major leaguer.
This seeming conflict of interests is easily resolved though. Local tournaments and travel teams CAN successfully coexist and even thrive. Most player allegiance and commitment conflicts that dual team membership (local and travel team) may create can be managed successfully – a win/win for everyone - when coaches, parents, players and organizations at both levels understand and are committed to the importance of sustaining the essential fabric of local athletic organizations. Travel teams that espouse a “community team/league first” philosophy, can be every bit as successful as those who focus exclusively on travel-team. The trick is to schedule travel tournaments on weekends that don’t conflict with the local tournaments.
I’m proud of the Mountville players, parents and coaches for many reasons – but especially because they are a shining example of how this delicate balance can work. Kudos to all of you! And, kudos to both the Mountville Indians and Mountville Phillies for winning their respective sections of this year’s Mountville 12U tournament.