International trips for U.S. youth sports teams is a big business. Sometimes the target is school sports teams; and sometimes those schools and communities get foreign travel fever.
While I have nothing against international travel – in fact, it’s a hobby my wife and I enthusiastically share – I caution against international trips for teams or individual athletes.
Sometimes the competition is badly matched. Sometimes our teams encounter and are routed by another country’s “national team.” More often, our teams encounter poorly organized events and weak, thrown-together opposing teams and substandard venues. But that’s not the major concern here.
Several years ago, a Michigan community spent $23,000 to help send 20 baseball players from three of its high schools to participate overseas. That’s nice, but the school district didn’t have a junior high baseball program; and I wondered if the community fundraising might not have been used to provide new opportunities for more student-athletes.
About the same time, there was an effort to fund one basketball player from each of a league’s schools to compete in an international basketball tournament. The cost was $2,200 for each student; and again I wondered if those communities might not have uses for the money that could provide benefit to more student-athletes.
Why do we spend thousands on a few when the same amounts of money could restore or expand opportunities for many? Why do we focus on the fortunate few while the foundations of our programs rot through eliminated junior high programs and pay-for-play senior high programs?
No one can argue that some of these trips do some of our students some good. But do they offer enough good for the few at a time when many students aren’t being offered even the basic opportunities of interscholastic athletics?
Local leadership should say “No” to requests to support expensive international trips. There’s need for them to put more into the foundation of our programs and less into foreign travel.