Youth travel ball teams are all dressed up but have nowhere to go these days.

Most sports fans are wondering when, or if, their favorite pro sports or college teams are going to return to the playing arena.

Lost in the shuffle perhaps is the fact that youth sports have also been put on hold.

“I think our youth sports are being forgot about, but we won’t,” said Chris Parrott, a Murfreesboro travel team softball coach for Tennessee Force.

Rutherford County travel ball teams in many sports have yet to play this season and are left wondering if they will play soon. Many have already seen most of their tournaments cancelled.

Youth recreation leagues have also yet to play, although plans are in place to attempt to play at some point.

“The unknowing is the most frustrating thing,” Parrott said. “In the grand scheme of things, we don’t want to rush to get back, and we want everyone to be safe.”

Nevertheless, it has been a lost season thus far for Tennessee Force, Parrott and fellow coach John Fuss’ 2009 (12U) softball squad.

The entire 10-tournament season has been canceled, but the World Series in Pigeon Forge slated for July 12 has been rescheduled for August.

“By the third week of March half of our season had been cancelled,” Fuss said. “We played about 90 games last year. It’s obviously it’s been disappointing, but we all understand.”

Added Parrott: “We’re moving up to the 12U and using a 12-inch ball instead of an 11-inch ball. We’re missing key time for the girls who want to play middle school next year, and so I’ve thought about the impact it will have on their development.”

Fuss said there have still been positives despite the negative of no softball games to this point.

“I’ve got four daughters who play together well, so we’re really not missing anything,” he said. “I they’re enjoying their time together. With no games, it hasn’t been as hectic. They’d rather be playing but it’s nice not to be rushing all the time. I wouldn’t do if I didn’t love it and love watching them get better.

“ ... What I miss most was I was going to coach my youngest in T-ball this year, and she was looking forward to me being her coach.”

Parrott admits he misses coaching and the travel on the weekends and hopes to get back on the diamond soon.

“I don’t know if the younger kids really understand what’s going on, and we sure don’t have an answer for them,” he said. “My kids aren’t getting to see their grandparents and they miss school. My wife is a saint for how important she is. I’m lucky to have her at home with three kids.”

 

A hot summer awaits

Justin Odum has been coaching the Outkasts travel baseball team for eight years.

“I coach my son on my 7-year-old team, and I’m coaching an 8U team, and my 14-year old plays for a different coach,” he said. “We were going to play from the second week of March until the second week of June. From what I’m hearing, the first of June is the best-case scenario.”

The Outkasts were set to play in 15 tournaments but 10 have already been canceled.

“We’ve already paid for everything,” Odum said. “We’re still waiting here in May. If we start in June that will the beginning. We usually take July and August off. If we get to play, we’ll have play in like 150-degree weather. We will try to reschedule the game and give the kids a chance to play what we originally had.

“The kids really don’t understand. They’re confused and don’t understand why they’re locked in. They don’t understand why they have to stay inside and can’t go meet their friends in a field. At this age going forward is a big thing for their development. Hopefully we can play a full season.”

 

Commissioner’s take

Ryan Miller coaches travel softball for Tennessee Force and is the president of the organization. He has daughters play in the 10U and 14U leagues.

He also is one of the commissioners of the Murfreesboro Kiwanis recreational softball league.

The Murfreesboro Baseball Association, which plays at Barfield Park, voted to cancel its spring season last week. 

Smyrna Fastpitch Softball also has canceled its spring season and will have a fall season that will begin in August and end Oct. 30.

Murfreesboro Kiwanis Softball is still taking a wait-and-see approach, while the Little League commissioners met last week to discuss future plans. 

“We’re kind of waiting to see what’s going to happen and keeping in mind the kids’ safety is No. 1,” Miller said. “I assume we’re all going to do similar things. As of now, MKS is preparing to have a season. What that looks like I don’t know. 

“If we can’t get on the field by June 1, it’s going to be difficult. You’re running into vacations and the fall league. Right now, we’re going to follow the guidelines of social distancing. I assume the ball fields are going to look a while lot different. We’re going to do everything we can to get girls on the field, but their safety is the main priority.”

 

Costs of travel ball

Most parents of travel ball players spend about $800 on uniforms, and that’s if they have just one child playing. Teams do have fundraisers and seek sponsors to help ease the cost.

There are also tournament entry fees, gate tickets for the weekend and food, gas and hotel costs.

“I’d say it’s about $400 or $500 bucks a weekend,” said Scott Wood, who works at Play it Again Sports and is in charge of the uniforms. “A lot of people don’t understand what’s already been paid out.”

Wood said most all of the travel teams’ uniforms have already been made, but most of the recreation league uniforms haven’t as those leagues have yet to start.

“We’ve done about 70 to 75 percent of what we usually do,” he said. “Basically, we took a hit on the retail side and kids coming in to get their equipment. We were shut down two or three weeks.”

Wood has one child playing baseball in middle school and another in the travel softball program.

“This is the first year I haven’t coached them,” he said. “We’ve talked about all of this and why we’re not playing, but they haven’t seemed to be too fazed about it. But they’re ready to play something.”

 

Football in July

Josh LeLoup started the Murfreesboro flag football league and teams started playing in the National Flag Football League about five years ago. 

“We played our second season, and we travel all over out of state, and we did pretty well,” LeLoup said. “We put another team together and we were supposed to play in the Dallas Cowboys stadium back in May, but they canceled it that week. We do 6-, 7-, 8-year olds and want to extend it to 10 and 11.

“We like starting with young athletes and we try to develop them and get them outside playing sports. I never had this opportunity; it was always tackle, tackle, tackle. Tackle football is great, but it’s not helping a 6-year-old really. This helps their footwork and hand-eye coordination.”

The spring league was canceled, but LeLoup said he will be offering a free summer league in the near future.

“(Oakland High School football coach) Kevin Creasy and I were talking and I said I’d love to get them going again. Why don’t we do a free league for six weeks and the winners will play in between the jamboree? We’re just starting the marketing of it.”

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