SYCAMORE – This past weekend, more than 70 trave teams convened on the multiple fields at Sycamore Park for the 14th annual Storm Dayz travel softball tournament.
Game after game after game was played over three days, as finding a parking spot was a difficult task. The tournament ended Sunday, a day that saw the 18U Kishwaukee Valley Storm team win its second Storm Dayz title in the tournament's history.
Big tournaments are the norm for a travel softball player. Storm 18U coach Jim Varga said his team will play seven tournaments in eight weeks this summer. All in all, the team will play between 50 and 70 games over the travel softball season.
For 18U Storm catcher Lindsey Costliow, travel ball is about keeping her mind sharp for college. Costliow, who just graduated from DeKalb High, got into travel ball looking for another challenge. She will play for Sauk Valley Community College next season.
"For me, I played on the park district teams and then my dad saw me having a lot of fun and saw how all the travel clubs were," Costliow said. "So we were like, let's try out and see what happens. So we tried out for a travel team. That's how it all got started."
Tristyn Criswell, a 2014 Sycamore graduate, said the competition can be right up there with high school ball. Criswell will be attending the University of Illinois in the fall, and plans on trying to walk on with the Illini or play on their club team.
"[Travel competition] varies between teams," she said. "Sometimes you play really good teams that are right up there with conference games and sometimes you play teams that don't even compare."
Varga said his team will play in places such as Elgin, Orland Park and Columbus, Ohio, this summer.
Of course, when you're talking about all these games, tournaments and travel opportunities, cost is involved.
Varga said playing a season for the Storm costs about $500, but that there are fundraising opportunities to help potential players.
"We try and make it reasonable. We do a lot of fundraising. We offer a lot of opportunities for kids," Varga said. "You don't have to have money. They can raise money throughout with our fundraisers. If it's a family that just hit hard times, we're not going to turn them away because they don't have the $500 that it costs."
Cost varies by team, and Varga said the Storm are one of the cheapest options in the region. The program consists of DeKalb County players for the most part, but also players from places such as Yorkville and Belvidere.
In terms of the travelling, there also are ways to help out with carpooling and lodging.
"If we have anyone that needs help we will hook them up," Varga said. "The child can stay with a family, to make it work. That's our goal."