I think that the rise of the travel teams, etc… are a symptom of a larger problem in youth sports.
That problem is that people take it WAY, WAY too seriously. Some small percentage end up making into the minors/college, and a small percentage of them make it to the majors.
Yet parents are starting their kids at 3 or 4 playing baseball, basketball and football. My son started playing YMCA rec-league basketball at 6 after he finished kindergarten, and he seemed to be far behind in terms of basketball skills! At 6! How fucking absurd is that? A kid who just finished kindergarten is one of the worse kids on his team of 6 and 7 year olds because he didn’t start years earlier?
And it only gets worse from there- you get people doing nutritionists, special coaching/private coaching, conditioning coaching, etc… And they play on travel teams / club teams, etc… which seem to be taking the place of the traditional school teams.
A friend’s daughter was a semi-serious soccer player, and he opined that the girls really considered their club teams to be the “real” teams, and the school ones were just for fun. The parents spent THOUSANDS of dollars on dues, travel, uniforms, coaching, etc… for high school age girls soccer. This for a sport that pays its players at the highest level UNDER $8000 a year in most cases.
It’s crazy; it sucks a lot of the fun out of it I suspect, and also makes it more of a game to see which kid has the richest and/or most committed parents, so that they can make the most of their mediocre natural talent.
To me, this somehow seems fundamentally wrong; it’s putting a lot of pressure on the kids from parents who want to see results for their money, and kids who feel like they have to perform, along with setting up an un-level playing field for kids whose parents can’t afford professional coaching or nutritionists, or trainers or for them to play in high-level summer leagues, etc…
I think what the OP is describing is just a subset of this larger phenomenon.