Obviously, the most glaring problem with travel baseball is the ridiculous amount of games many kids are playing during the summer. Clearly, there is a problem when 10 year old kids are playing the same amount of games, if not more, as Major League Baseball’s Rookie League Players. The risk of physical fatigue and injury is alarming, as medical research indicates the significant levels of stress that continuous overhand throwing places on the elbow and shoulder of underdeveloped bodies.
However, the primary cause for burnout is the onset of mental fatigue caused by the types of games and the pressure associated with tournament play and travel.
Remember, I am talking about young kids under the age of 12, most of whom are not emotionally and socially mature enough to handle the stress associated with tournament baseball, in addition to the idea of being solely dedicated to one sport or activity.
Kids need time to be kids, especially in the summer. This includes going to the pool with friends, hanging out in the park playing pick-up games, riding their bikes through the neighborhood, or simply spending time at home with family.
Travel baseball forces kids to fully dedicate their time, energy, and interest into one activity. This is not natural at their stage in life. Even for high school athletes where I believe the rigors of travel baseball are far more age-appropriate, it is still difficult for many athletes to dedicate that much time and energy into one activity.
One important aspect of preventing burnout is enabling kids to play other sports throughout the year and not just concentrate on baseball. Playing other sports gives kids a break from baseball, in turn facilitating a greater appreciation for the game itself.
Rodney Davis, a high school coach in Arizona, expresses concern that travel baseball and the pressure associated with it has led to lack of appreciated for the game itself. Adding to this is the growing perception regarding the necessity for year round training and specialization.
"Kids aren't growing up with the love of the game," Davis said. "They are now growing up with the sense to perform and to be showcased all of the time. Their knowledge of the game seems superficial. I think they love the game, but they haven't learned to appreciate it."
In addition, playing other sports develops athleticism, which will prove extremely beneficial on the baseball field.
“Kids really need to be encouraged to play different sports,” says Daniel Wann, a professor of psychology at Murray State University. “And there are two sides to the coin as to why that is the case. First, it allows the muscle groups used to play baseball to take a break. And second, it allows for other sports skills to be developed. Many sports skills are transferable. For example, the footwork in soccer can be transferred very easily to basketball or baseball, and the starts and stops in basketball can be transferred to infielders or when running the bases. A kid can be playing sports other than baseball and still be getting better as a baseball player.”