My 9-year-old son before his 1st game at the Notre Dame Hockey Arena.

This was the first season that we had to do any kind of traveling with our sons’ sports teams. At first, the thought of young kids playing in out of town tournaments seemed very silly and downright unnecessary to me.

What’s the point?

It’s not like we live in a rural community that doesn’t have plenty of other teams for us to play. The kids don’t care who they play against or where they play. They just want to play games.

And between you and me, the added expense of a weekend away from home didn’t thrill me either. Three boys in hockey is expensive enough already!

But after traveling three different times this season with two of my boys’ youth hockey teams, my perspective has changed.

Now, I see the point.

Traveling Brings A Team Together

Our first travel experience was a weekend trip to Springfield, MO with my 9-year-old’s Squirt team. Before that weekend, the other parents and I were always friendly to each other in the locker rooms and bleachers, but there wasn’t a connection. It felt like the only thing we had in common was that our kids played on the same hockey team.

The same can be said for the kids on the team. They were just individual players who wore the same uniform.

Something changed after that weekend out of town.

Families got to know each other. Kids got to know each other. The kids got to be kids and play something together besides hockey. A group that started out as teammates became friends.

And do you know happened? Those new friends started to gel as a team on the ice.

The team was more fun to watch, too. Not just because their play improved, but because after spending a weekend with them, I knew all the kids on the team. So instead of cheering for “number 51,” I was cheering for “Mitch.”

That weekend trip to Springfield was the turning point of a fun season.

Creates Fun Memories For The Kids

While in beautiful Springfield, MO, the team stayed at the Drury Inn. Judging by the kids’ reactions and recollections though, you would have thought we stayed at Atlantis.

Drury vs Atlantis

When you’re a kid, there’s something mind-blowing about staying at the same hotel as your buddies. It can be a complete dump (Hotel Corel Essex from Revenge of the Nerds II comes to mind.) but the kids will find a way to have a blast anyway. It’s like they’re surrounded by a false sense of AWESOME!

One of the prerequisites of traveling with a youth sports team in the winter is an indoor pool. (Or as I like to call it, “The Echo Chamber.”) The pool at the Drury was an epic indoor-outdoor pool. That’s right. It had a half wall that the kids could swim under to go to the other half of the pool, which was outside.

The night that we stayed there the temperature was about 30 degrees and it was freezing rain. So you know what that meant. The kids spent about 90% of their pool time in the freezing outside half of the pool. Like I said, false sense of AWESOME!

20 years from now, the kids won’t remember how many games they won or lost over that weekend. But I guaran-damn-tee you that they’ll remember that night of swimming outside in the freezing rain.

My boys touring Notre Dame.
My boys touring Notre Dame.

A Chance To Visit Places You Normally Wouldn’t

Springfield was our first trip, but it wasn’t our only one this season. Our boys also played tournaments in Kansas City and at the University of Notre Dame.

You’re probably not surprised to hear this, but Notre Dame was the best of the three trips. I bought Rudy on DVD right before our trip so that our boys could watch it in the van during our drive to South Bend. That turned out to be a great idea. Not just because it introduced them to one of the most inspirational and motivational sports movies of all time, but because it gave the boys a point of reference when we explored the Notre Dame campus. It was cool to see how much they got into it.

Without the need to visit for hockey tournaments, we wouldn’t have traveled to those places any time soon, if ever.

Turns Up The Intensity

Now, since a large reason for traveling with a youth sports team is to actually play some games, let’s focus on that for a few seconds.

The intensity level of out of town games is higher than typical games. Not so much for the kids who are playing the games, they try hard no matter what. But the energy level coming from the sports parents in the crowd is noticeably higher.

It’s easy to get a little jacked up when your kid is playing in an out of town tournament. Especially if they’re playing in a Division I team’s rink, or at a minor league stadium. That’s exciting stuff. But when it comes down to it, the kids just want to play the games.

So the next time you feel yourself getting a little over hyped for one of your kids’ out of town games, remember this…there’s a good chance that he’s thinking more about going swimming or playing back at the hotel than playing the actual game.

Focus on the fun, because that’s the point.

Have you experienced out of town travel for your kid’s teams? Share your favorite memories and perspective.

Thanks for reading,

Kevin Duy is a Sports Dad of three boys & creator of – a website for dads who have at least one son with a passion for sports. Learn how to help your son become the best athlete HE wants to be, and use sports to teach him life lessons along the way. Connect with Kevin on Facebook (/SportsDadHub) and Twitter (@SportsDadHub).