Takeaways from NextUp 2023: the Youth Sports Management Conference

By Melissa Wickes
October 30, 2023
3 min

It’s not everyday leaders in youth sports get together in one room to discuss all of the things affecting the industry, learn from one another, network, and grow. In fact, it really only happens once a year and that instance is NextUp: the Youth Sports Management Conference.

Over the course of October 25 and 26, just over 400 people with a connection to the youth sports industry in some way gathered in the Big Apple for a youth sports event unlike any other. Attendees have described the event as “important,” “robust,” “informative,” and “amazing.” It’s no surprise we sold out! 

If you were able to attend NextUp 2023, thank you from the whole team at LeagueApps for making it such a success. Here are some of the highlights of this year’s conference.

Compelling Sessions

One of the most important parts about NextUp is the opportunity to learn new things that can be applied to your own youth sports organizations. This year’s agenda was packed with topics  that matter to the people leading the youth sports industry, including:

  • Tech & Data
  • Playspaces
  • Leadership
  • Accessibility
  • Player Development & Recruiting
  • Sponsorship & Partnerships
  • Events
  • Corporate Development
  • Health & Safety
  • Change
  • Customer-led Growth
  • Brand Development
  • Staffing Gap
  • Facility Management and Financing 
  • Data & Analytics 
  • Future of Video

Stay tuned for more in-depth session recaps as well as opportunities to view some of the sessions on video on our website.

New Connections

Networking is always a highlight of NextUp—and in between content hundreds of youth sports professionals networked with one another over coffee. The industry is stronger when we work together, and that’s why opportunities to get together like NextUp are so important to the future of our industry. 

Important Conversations

Throughout the presentations, breakout sessions, roundtable discussions, and all of the organic conversations in between, we discussed important topics and arrived at meaningful conclusions for where we need to focus our time as an industry, where the industry is headed, and how to make it better. Here are some examples of key takeaways from the conference:

  • While we recognize the importance of data in youth sports, there needs to be a moral and ethical approach to data to make breakthroughs—especially as it pertains to kids.
  • Wait until kids play 11v11 soccer (age 13) to start collecting data and digging into player development—because that’s when they’re able to understand that failure isn’t fatal.
  • Building more multi-purpose facilities, like spaces that can handle sports, events, trade shows, and more, is the way to look at the future of play spaces
  • Playing on a small court when you’re young will help you develop as an athlete—more playing time, small games, lots of reps
  • There’s no substitute for being a multi-disciplinary athlete. It’s a mistake to teach them one sport, you aren’t giving them a chance to fully hone their skills.
  • How do we give kids the same dopamine rush as TikTok when they’re playing sports?
  • Club owners need to understand real estate.
  • When it comes to your organization’s social media, try it out for a few weeks yourself to get a benchmark of what it is you need. If that doesn’t work out, outsource it to someone who understands your industry.
  • If you run a facility, know your budget and market—that is key to pricing.
  • When running events, ask yourself if this is an event you would have wanted to play in as a kid.
  • Never undervalue your staff—without them the experience would not work.
  • A partner works together toward common goals and outcomes. The partnerships that fail are the ones where I have gotten the value and you haven’t.
  • Belongingness, flexibility, resilience, and having fun all come from sport—there is worth in just showing up, whether you are competitive or not.
  • Girls’ issues are so much different than boys. 

Influential Speakers

Every person who took the stage in some capacity shared valuable insights, information, and tips. Some of these speakers included:

  • Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, Olympic Gold Medalist and CEO of Multiplying Good—she spoke about playing spaces
  • Brian Scalabrine, TV Analyst and Former NBA Player—he spoke about leadership
  • Richad Corraine, COO of Union Square Hospitality Group—he spoke about our customers
  • Dhani Jones, entrepreneur and Former NFL Player—he spoke about leadership
  • Rebecca Semel, PHD, Licensed PSychologist—she spoke about mental health
  • Joe Janosky, Director of Sports Injury Prevention Programs for Hospital for Special Surgery—he spoke about injury prevention 
  • Kendra Gaunt, Lead Product Manager for Color of Change—she spoke about data
  • Linda Flanagan, author of Take Back the Game—she spoke about change
  • Tom Farrey, Founder & Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program—he spoke about the youth sports customer and youth sports governance 

Product Demos & Updates

One of the reasons many attendees told us they wanted to attend NextUp 2023 is to learn what’s going on with youth sports tech now, especially LeagueApps’ technology.  To meet this ask, at the conference our Product Team held live demos in the LeagueApps Lounge to show off LeagueApps’ newest feature—LeagueApps Analytics.  

Dozens of attendees stopped by the LeagueApps Lounge to get their own personal demo of this exciting new tool. Check out the video below that was played during the presentation.