Travel Family Orientations

Tonight we held a (belated) orientation on our Travel program for families with kids coming out of our In-Town program this year. This was supposed to happen back in June at Capuano Field during Field Evaluations, but the global pandemic had other ideas.

When I joined the board three years ago as the Communications & Social Media Director, I was struck by how different and nuanced our Travel program was compared to the In-Town program I knew well at that point. I reasoned that if I found this contrast to be dramatic, our families likely were feeling the same. And like that our Travel Family Orientation was born.

This orientation has grown from that first year, when then-President Andrew Platt, Beth Balter, and I addressed families and fielded questions from a small elevation at Capuano, shouting to be heard over the activity on the field. Last year we used a new PA system at Capuano and had handouts for families. This year it was done via Zoom with a slide presentation.

One of the things I love about these orientations is that it gives us a chance to clear up misconceptions about how player placements work and to explain the logic behind our approach. After years of being able to request teammates, coaches, and practice nights, it’s a big adjustment suddenly having all of those things dictated to you.

But we believe that our approach to forming Travel-age teams is fair and objective, driven by ever-improving evaluation data, and, most importantly, the best thing for the kids.

We’re not heartless robots. We understand it can be upsetting for players — and especially parents — to be separated from schoolmates and soccer friends who have been teammates for years on In-Town teams. But we know all too well that the best thing both for skill development and enjoyment of soccer is for players to be properly challenged, playing alongside teammates of similar skill against opponents of similar skill.

The orientations also are a chance for us to encourage good habits from families. Whether it’s emphasizing the importance of RSVPing ahead of time for practices and games in SportsEngine or showing up on time for training and games, this is an opportunity for us to underscore these things.

It’s also an opportunity for us to spell out what we want to see from our families in terms of our culture as a youth sports organization. We’re all about positivity and sportsmanship. We tell parents we want them to be their child’s biggest cheerleader, but to leave the officials and opponents alone and leave the coaching to their child’s coach. And we plead with parents to make the car ride home an encouraging experience for their child instead of a dreaded dissection of their performance, full of critiques.

We always get excellent questions from curious families in these meetings, and tonight was no different. We went over some things specific to this very untraditional fall season, as well as some proposals floating around at the board level for future seasons. Our hope is that in the end it was an enlightening and worthwhile hour of families’ time.