Have we lost the "Team" in Travel?

OK, time to thaw out my Winter hiatus.  Here's a question for those travel softball and baseball coaches who are chomping at the bit to get back outside on the grass.  Let's think about this travel-ball culture which has evolved.   In the neighborhood leagues it's all fun and everyone plays, but we want our stars to compete against other stars, so we travel.  We pick the best of the best from the house leagues and hit the road weekend after weekend.  But what else did we leave behind, and what did we lose?

While we picked up the level of competition, but we lost the "league", the "season", and the playoffs.  We lost the grind, the long road which made the player next to you, playing your same position, so necessary.  While baseball and softball may be 9 player games (10 with your DH), a long season with injuries, illnesses, and other obstacles makes 20 more realistic.  By turning the competition into a weekly (weekend) event, each one separate and distinct from the other, we lost the lesson that we need the best from all 20, not the 9; and the recognition that it's the coach's job to play the nuances of their players across the constantly varying circumstances of the games and the season.  And when you add the unnatural "college exposure" element that has creeped into the game for 8th graders on up, we've lost the lesson of, and appreciation of "Team".
So the question comes back to us as coaches.  How do we work this slanted system of week by week, weekend competitions, which slants the game time/practice time ratio far more towards games, to teach:
  1. Technique, 
  2. Position, 
  3. Team, 
  4. and hopefully Life lessons.  
I think this is a very important question if you take your role in this system seriously.  With on average less than 10% high school age athletes ever going on to college competition, 3 and 4 start to look like pretty important goals.
One coach I spoke to on this topic who I have always respected for his approach to coaching youth had this motto:  "Friday and Saturday are practice, and Sunday's the game!  This allowed him to manage the Friday and Saturday games to teach, and to learn what worked best for him and his team in various situations.  It managed expectations of parents SO focused on the daily score and playing time.  He could test more aggressive base running. He could experiment with his players skills in different positions.  He could build experience of lesser skilled players, so that they could be there for their team in a pinch.  He brought practice hours back on top of game hours.  And by the motto alone, he's demonstrating to his team the importance of every single member of that team.  I found this one little twist of how he looked at his tournament weekends extremely powerful.
But I'm sure there are other great ideas out there.  I'd love to hear your ideas.
What do you do, to turn the "me" weekends of exposure and playing time into "our" weekend of Team and Team Work? 


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