10 Things I Think I Think About Youth Sports

By Melissa Wickes
April 25, 2024
3 min

The industry we work in is unlike any other—it’s impossible to fully grasp what’s changing each day by simply sitting at a desk all day reading articles and messages from our partners. That’s why we get out in the field.

Each month, members of our team attend between two and four youth sports related events—like tournaments, conventions, and other gatherings of youth sports minds—to gain insights. We even host an annual youth sports conference in NYC called NextUp, where 300+ youth sports leaders from all over the country come together to learn from one another and gain insights available nowhere else. (This year’s is October 16 & 17!)

This collaborative mindset is one of the reasons you may be familiar with the President of LeagueApps, Jeremy Goldberg. 

Jeremy feels strongly about getting out there and connecting with the youth sports community—so over Spring Break he took the opportunity to meet with some of the leading youth sports organizations on the West Coast. Here’s what he took away from the trip:

1. Growth is happening where space doesn’t appear to be a constraint: recreational models 

Scalable recreational models are a growth opportunity in youth sports, says Jeremy. Friday Night Lights, a youth flag football league in Orange County, is a great example. They tend not to have the space constraints of more competitive programs as they can access public parks and schools, but deliver a better experience with paid referees and strong administration. In many respects, it rewards sophistication because they are operating across multiple locations relying on volunteer coaches. 

2. What keeps organizations up at night: tournament entries 

When a qualification is required to attend a tournament, it becomes a logistical nightmare for organizations—there are last-minute travel arrangements if they do make the tournament, and the need for backup plans if they don’t. Parents invest a lot of time and money into their kids’ sports and if they are expecting an opportunity for their kids to play that weekend, well let’s just say there better be one! 

3. What keeps organizations up at night: social media

Establishing a brand is a way to get more people considering an organization as a place to play—and every organization is struggling with how to get better. What should they be posting, how should they be posting, how can they get more attention on their posts, etc. Every single organization Jeremy spoke with said social media is more important than any other channel when it comes to marketing. 

4. Field and facility space is a critical determinant of growth for youth sports organizations, and their ability to grow is correlated to their ability to effectively manage the utilization of their own space, and procure additional space

An organization’s ability to grow is connected to accessible space. They have to manage the utilization of space well and procure additional space—like opening new facilities and buying clubs that have facility space.

5. The future is hospitality

Parents are spending a lot of time at youth sports facilities—how are these organizations making the experience better for them? What’s the food and beverage experience like? What’s the design of the space? How are organizations making parents feel really special and premium? 

Organizations like Coast Volleyball Club and the St. James are providing elite facility experiences like restaurants, spas, etc.

6. If physical space is a constraint, then it prompts organizations to look for new ways to generate revenue

The four paths that seem emergent are as follows…

7.  Organizations are scaling their existing model to new spaces

Organizations are developing new facilities (like Team EsFace), buying existing clubs (like Wave Volleyball), and expanding to new cities by way of an owned and operated model or franchise (like ADVNC Lacrosse). 

8. Organizations are creating new offerings that change how they utilize space 

Jeremy visited the Golden State Warriors Academy at the Warriors Basketball Facility in Oakland, where they’re offering programs beyond their typical youth ones to take advantage of the space—like Shoot 360, Pickleball, VolleyTots, and strength and conditioning. 

9. Organizations are creating off-court offerings that leverage their know-how into digital offerings

In addition to utilizing their facilities with other offerings, they’re utilizing digital insights to offer even more—like Wave Volleyball mental performance workshops and Team Esface’s player development training. 

10.  Be open to new forms of business  

To grow is to evolve, and while the primary goal is to offer youth sports experiences to kids, there are additional forms of business that can be hugely beneficial and lucrative in youth sports—like eCommerce, for example. 

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