Things Need to Change In Youth Sports
If sports are to continue in the right direction, we need to correct a few problems in the place it begins.
There’s never been a better time in history to be an athlete.
College athletes can now get paid (and some high school ones)
Sports like golf are being turned upside down in favor of player rights
The women’s side is receiving more funding and attention than ever before
Tier 1 pro athletes have absurd amounts of money, power, and influence
Ed-tech platforms and good actors are helping athletes make better decisions
Technology and rules are making sports safer each and every day
But at the same time…
It’s tough being a “supporting cast member” in the sports industry.
Who am I talking about?
Athletic trainers, referees, scoreboard operators, and anyone in administrative roles around sports.
Let’s Dive In 👇
What NIL is Doing
As you’re probably aware, I’m a huge proponent of athletes being able to monetize — even if they’re in high school.
But while these new rules are creating opportunities, they are also causing some issues.
There’s already a ton of pressure on kids and families to receive a full athletic scholarship.
And now, with the ability to make life-changing money in high school because of NIL, things are getting more extreme.
It’s usually the adults causing the problems and not the kids.
Here are a few examples:
1. The Social Media Parent
We have parents living through their kids and basically “using” them on social media.
The amount of pressure this kid now faces is absurd — how’s he going to deal with it if he’s not good enough to play in college?
And then there are the violent parents.
2. The Brawlers
Nothing like role model parents fighting over 13-year-old baseball.
And what’s really affecting the industry is the lack of respect towards those officiating games.
A Referee Shortage
The referee pool in youth and high school sports continues to dwindle lower each year.
But it’s nothing new…
Since the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) started surveying officials in 1976, one stat has remained consistent — over 70% of referees leave the profession during their first three years (and never come back).
In almost any other industry, having 7/10 newcomers quit would lead to major changes.
The fallout is mostly due to a cutthroat sports culture that often holds amateur referees to a professional standard.
I mean who wants to make $20/game getting yelled at the whole time with the risk of things escalating further?
We have players attacking refs….
And coaches choking them out…
I mean come on people…
No wonder why over the last 3 years an estimated 50,000 high school referees quit according to the National Federation of State High School Sports.
And in my opinion, it’s only going to get worse…
Parents will go to extremes to get their kids a scholarship — you don’t think they’ll push it even further to make sure they get some of the NIL money?
Of course they will…
I’m not sure the infrastructure is set up for all of this yet.
Commercialization of Youth Sports
Professional sports are a business with all the proper infrastructure in place to make sure it’s a top-tier experience for everyone involved.
From the refs to the players, coaches, videographers, social media managers, and anyone who is a part of the league or team.
It’s a full-blown operation with a lot of moving pieces.
Youth sports are not set up that way. The money simply isn’t there.
I mean take a look at this…
Of the 80 public schools across Chicago, there are less than 10 total athletic trainers.
How does that work?
Even at Boston University, we had about 5 total for the roughly 600 student-athletes.
It’s a tough job — with low pay, long hours, little respect, and very unforgiving circumstances.
If individuals are unwilling to become referees, athletic trainers, scorekeepers, or any of the other complimentary sporting roles — then we’re going to run into problems down the line.
While I think there are a handful of high schoolers that should be entitled to making NIL money, we need to be careful to not let it seep into the younger ages.
Youth sports are supposed to be fun, a time to grow, and compete with no other motives in mind.
All of the problems we’re seeing are going to drive up costs — paying refs more, higher costs for AAU tournaments, more expensive trainers, etc.
These costs are already high enough…
I plan on breaking down the youth sports industry in a future issue — but wanted to give you a glimpse into some of the problems it faces today.
Keep in mind…
Sports will be just fine and proper adjustments will be made.
With problems, come opportunities.
I think the youth sports space is ripe for disruption in so many ways.
With the increased money coming in, entrepreneurs might be attracted to the growing market opportunity.
Collectively, we have to decide what we want for youth sports.
One thing I know is true…
$2,000 travel team fees, $30/day parking passes, and brawls with referees aren’t it.
Thanks for reading today!
Have a nice Friday and start to the weekend.
We’ll talk again on Sunday during the weekly roundup.