Has your child been selected (or is thinking of trying out) for a “rep” team? Also called “travel” or “club” teams, these programs offer a more competitive experience than a local “house league.”In addition to the sense of teamwork and sportsmanship that come from being on any team, a rep program can be highly beneficial for your young athlete’s development. It provides more opportunities for your child to play the sport he or she loves, with an experienced coach and like-minded teammates. Rep teams may also have access to higher quality equipment and facilities for their training.
Because rep teams typically have a tryout process, there is a sense of pride that comes with being chosen for a team, as well as the chance to represent your city or town. For kids who to love to compete, a rep team offers the chance to face opponents from around the region and potentially win some hardware in playoffs or out-of-town tournaments.
While there are many up-sides for your young superstar, what will be expected of you, the rep parent? Here is some pre-game advice from Brad Boulton, a father of two who is in his third season as a rep head coach with the Waterloo Minor Baseball Association.
Take it seriously.
“The time commitment in rep is much larger than in local league,” Brad says. For example, his team’s rep season runs until Labor Day weekend, while house league wraps up in mid-July. House league teams may have a more casual, show-up-when-you-can approach, but in rep, the expectation is that you’ll be diligent about your player’s attendance and punctuality.
Give advance notice for absences.
Of course, there may be times when your child has to miss a team event due to illness or a family vacation. When this happens, be courteous and notify the coach as early as possible. Many teams use an app or website where parents can view the team calendar and indicate their child’s availability for future practices and games. “It’s important that parents check the app and keep their entries up to date, as it helps the coaches plan practices, set game line-ups and identify the need for call-up players,” Brad explains.
Don’t leave the coach hanging.
As a coach, Brad has faced this first-hand. “Coaches and managers put in a lot of time behind the scenes,” he says, “so if a message is sent out that requires a response, the hope is that parents will answer in a timely manner.” To open the lines of communication, Brad holds a pre-season parent meeting every year, where he distributes a 10-page document outlining his coaching philosophy, team expectations, and other relevant details.
Rep sports can be expensive. In contrast to a house league program, which often provides a basic uniform as part of the registration fee, a rep uniform must be purchased separately. You’ll likely receive a list of prescribed brands and styles, with optional add-ons such as a team bag, spirit wear, and other accessories. Rep teams may run several fundraisers during the year to help offset the cost of facility rentals and tournament entry fees.
A rep coach may have a different approach when it comes to positions and playing time – for example, players may not rotate through all positions equally. “While there will be an increased focus on competition, parents should know that the coach has a plan for the team’s overall development,” Brad says. The best thing you can do is to praise your child’s effort wherever he’s assigned to play, and don’t undervalue positions such as outfield or defense. If you have concerns or feedback to share with the coach, it is recommended to wait 24 hours (as a “cooling off” period) before speaking up.
At games and practices, rep players are expected to be more self-reliant. Coaches may request that the kids stay in the bench area, rather than running over to visit parents or other spectators during the game. They should also learn to organize and manage their own belongings, such as their equipment and water bottle.
Young players will make mistakes, as will coaches and officials. Instead of acting like a world championship is on the line, strive to be a role model of sportsmanship and respect. “As a parent, you're setting an example for your child,” Brad says. “You should always conduct yourself with dignity and avoid engaging in arguments with officials or parents from the other team.”
Regardless of the competition level, youth sports are intended to be a positive and rewarding experience. Joining a rep team can be intimidating at first, but the same advice applies to players and parents: just pay attention and do your best. Welcome to the team!