SBJ/Aug. 10-16, 2015/In Depth

Kids at play: Sports executives share their likes and dislikes about youth sports

Meet the executives and their children who play youth sports

Ray DeWeese
Title: General manager, Ohio State IMG Sports Marketing
Sports children have played: Daughter Natalie (11), volleyball, lacrosse, basketball, swimming; son Cameron (8), baseball, football, basketball, swimming; daughter Allie (6), softball, basketball, swimming.

Colin Faulkner
Title: Vice president, sales and partnerships, Chicago Cubs
Sports children have played: Daughter Avery (13), gymnastics; son Blake (11), hockey and lacrosse; son Drew (9), hockey and baseball. (Editor’s note: Faulkner’s wife, Jaime, is CEO of E15)
 
Sean Henry
Title: President and chief operating officer, Nashville Predators
Sports children have played: Son Stevie (19), baseball, hockey, soccer, football, lacrosse and basketball leading up to college, now intramurals and adult leagues; son Matty (15), baseball, hockey and soccer; daughter Amy (11), soccer, basketball and hockey; daughter Jessie (8), soccer, cross country, hockey, basketball, lacrosse and others.

Michael Neuman
Michael Neuman’s son Alex shows off his pitching form.
Photo by: Michael Neuman

Title: Managing partner, Scout Sports and Entertainment
Sports children have played: Son Alex (10), baseball, basketball and soccer.

Scott O’Neil
Title: CEO, Philadelphia 76ers
Sports children have played: Daughter Alexa (15), basketball and lacrosse; daughter Kira (11), basketball and lacrosse; daughter Eliza (8), basketball.
 
Doug Perlman
Title: CEO, Sports Media Advisors
Sports children have played: Sons Taylor (14), Carson (12) and Chase (10) each play multiple sports including baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, hockey, squash, tennis and flag football.
 
Jeff Price
Title: Chief commercial officer, PGA of America
Sports children have played: Son Jordan (8), golf, soccer, basketball and track; daughter Julia (6), soccer, gymnastics and golf.

Chad Seigler talks to son Jackson on the sideline.
Photo by: Charles Seigler
Chad Seigler

Title: Vice president, business development, NASCAR
Sports children have played: Son Jackson (11), football, lacrosse, golf and mountain bike racing; daughter Maitlain (8), basketball and horseback riding.

Nicole Jeter West
Title: Managing director, ticketing and digital strategy, U.S. Tennis Association
Sports children have played: Sons Xavier (10) and Tyler (7), soccer, basketball and tennis; daughter Sydney (3) has yet started to play sports but has a right-sized tennis racket.


What they like about youth sports

DeWeese: I really enjoy seeing the social dynamics and physical awareness evolve from the first day of practice
Ray DeWeese’s daughter Natalie ready for lacrosse.
Photo by: Ray DeWeese
through a season. My children are involved in a lot of team sports and watching all of the kids, not just my own, develop skills throughout the year and learn the game is always fun to see.

Faulkner: Youth sports teach so many valuable life lessons that can be carried past the field of play. Teamwork, dedication, selflessness, hard work, communication, honesty, integrity, relationships, perspective, and so many others that are necessary for success in life. Youth sports also allow our family opportunities to spend time together.

Henry: I love watching them have fun whether in their best sport or one they just enjoy participating. It is fun to watch them interact with their team (friends), coaches and sometimes be put in new situations. Sometimes the best part of their teams has nothing to do with the games, but the postgame meals, car ride home, drive-through ice cream or hotel pools make lifelong memories for all of us.

Neuman: I love watching the social dynamics develop among Alex and his teammates and always have. In a growing world of technology, there is a real beauty in watching the communication process evolve on the field. I also love the old-fashioned concept of striving for success and competition. We try to create balance between learning, growing, having fun, winning and just being a kid.

O’Neil: I love that as a child you learn about what it means to be a teammate and to root for others. I love kids learning at a young age to compete and to sacrifice and work hard. I love how the girls learn to lead and to follow and how to win with class and to lose with grace.

Perlman: I love that the boys are able to learn the value of hard work, how to operate as part of a team and how to handle success and failure when others are watching. Of course, the fitness benefits are incredibly important. They’ve also learned to deal with various personality types — both good and bad.

West: The life lessons about teamwork, being selfless, humble and that you don’t always win, but you never give up.


What they don't like about youth sports

DeWeese: When youth sports becomes more about the parents than the children. We all know what it is like to see a parent that is living through their child and expects them to be the next professional superstar. I really dislike all of the sport specialization and think that this is a direct result of parents expecting their children to train for future professional careers. I think this drives the burnout problem in youth sports.

Faulkner: If you let it happen, and you’re not intentional about what you say yes and no to, youth sports have the potential to take away from family time or other activities (church, school, vacations, etc.). There is also a danger that perspective can be lost on the bigger picture of life, where youth sports become too important and too time consuming and too much a part of a child’s identity.

Sean Henry’s youngest daughter, Jessie, (top) is shown playing hockey in the Nashville Predators’ learn to play program. Son Matty (below) gets into position for a game of baseball.
Photos by: Sean Henry
Henry:
I dislike the growing number of for-profit coaches at young levels that prey upon the parents that truly believe that their child will play their sport professionally. I really dislike any coach trying to steer a child into a single sport at any age, but especially at the youngest of age. You are hard-pressed to find a professional athlete that only played their current sport, but unfortunately many kids are getting pushed that way and egocentric parents are encouraging it.

Neuman: I’m 100 percent against specializing at Alex’s age. I recall his travel soccer coach telling me when he was 9, upon learning Alex also played baseball, that if he “didn’t play the spring season he couldn’t guarantee Alex a spot on the team in the fall.” That was the last time Alex played for that team.

Perlman: Unfortunately the boys have witnessed a fair amount of poor behavior on the playing fields. Dads and coaches in screaming matches or worse. They set a poor example for our kids.

Price: Overzealous parents pushing their kids too hard.

Seigler: I have grown to dislike the “youth sports factory” mindset that focuses so much time and effort on moving kids to the next level. The odds of young kids moving to the next level are very slim and the approach of a lot of organizations has taken the innocence away.

West: Parents that misbehave on the sidelines. Youth sports should be fun. It is a competition, but parents and coaches should never lose sight that it’s a game. Kids are always watching and listening — parents and coaches have to be the example.


Moments that stand out

Faulkner: We do spend a lot of time in the car, driving to and from sports events. We try to use those moments to
The Faulkner family poses with Jake Bunz and Bunz’s father. The family served as a host family for Bunz.
Photo by: Colin Faulkner
have meaningful life conversations with our kids. The car trips and conversations had are often as memorable as something that happened at a meet or game. One of the things we always try to tell our kids is, “I love to watch you play.” We read about this simple six-word phrase, and this has had a huge impact on the relationship we have with our kids around competitive sports.

Henry: One of them was at a graduation party for my sons (from high school and elementary school). We moved to Nashville from Tampa in ninth and fifth grades respectively. One of the best moments from the night as we looked around our yard was that there was someone from every single team they ever played on at that party, and more than half of those teams were from a city over 700 miles away. It was nice to see that their best friends in their old and new cities (and in the end ours, too) were made at school and through youth sports.

Neuman: Alex played on a 7’s and 8’s Little League team when he was 5 and there was a scrimmage against the best team in the division. … The coaches agreed to have the kids pitch two innings of the six-inning game while they pitched the other four. Alex came in with the bases loaded and no outs and over both innings he pitched, he struck out five, induced a ground ball out and only gave up one run. Holding the other team those two innings was the difference and they went on to win that game.

O’Neil: Most of them are the little moments … the smile or celebration after a bucket, the look of grit and determination on defense, the dive for a loose ball … the friend who has never played scoring her first basket and seeing my daughter celebrate like she won Olympic gold.

Price: Watching the smile on Jordan’s face when his team used his shot to make birdie on a hole — priceless!
Jeff Price’s son Jordan takes a swing at PGA Jr. League golf.
Photo by: Jeff Price


Seigler: For me it is never about championships or tournament wins but it has always been the excitement I get when seeing them accomplish the small things that I know are building their confidence and character. That can be earning a podium spot in a bike race or simply bouncing back after a bad hole in golf. Small wins can mean large gains in the big picture.

West: There are many, but they all have to do with the smiles on their faces. The confidence they have in themselves, the friendships they will have for years and the spontaneous chest bump after a great play.


Goals for their children

DeWeese: To learn life lessons (hard work, overcoming adversity, teamwork, personal responsibility, sportsmanship, etc.) from practice and competition. I will encourage them to become lifelong athletes and lovers of sport. If they are good enough to continue to play at certain levels and still enjoy the game, then I hope they play forever.

Faulkner: Avery’s goal is to get a college gymnastics scholarship. Blake’s goal is to play high school and hopefully college hockey. Drew hasn’t set sports goals other than to have a lot of fun and be very social. Our goals for them are to be the best they can be and to learn the lessons mentioned above (teamwork, dedication, selflessness, hard work, communication, honesty, integrity, relationships, perspective, etc.).
Nicole Jeter West’s sons Xavier (left) and Tyler pose for a photo on the soccer field.
Photo by: Nicole Jeter West

Henry: I assume my kids all assume they will play in a professional league, and they should always assume that will happen, but that was never my goal for them when signing them up or coaching them in T-ball or hockey. … It was for them to join a team, do well and ideally play at a minimum in high school and feel a sense of belonging to a positive group, make lifelong friends, have fun, not be afraid to make an error, take a penalty or to shoot as that confidence and values would allow them to be happier kids and in the end better adults.

Neuman: I want him to have fun, learn to listen to others in a position of authority, make lifelong friends and enjoy the experience of travel (road trips, hotels, tournaments, time away with family, etc.). I would love to see him play competitively in high school as athletics was a big part of my childhood and college experience. He does have aspirations to play in college and we support him, but he knows grades come first.

O’Neil: The goal for each of my girls is to be a high school athlete and experience all that is right about sports in the world.

Perlman: I think our goal is for the boys to enjoy their high school sports experiences. If they’re able to play beyond that, it’s “gravy.” While I can sometimes get carried away with visions of college sports, my wife offers a balanced perspective and would rather have the boys enjoy a more typical college experience. We’ll see ….


Price:
To have fun, play hard and hopefully during every sport season playing a different sport. The rest will take care of itself.

Seigler: The goal is for my kids to have fun with their friends and build memories that they will take with them long after the innocent days of their youth is behind them. I am excited that my kids have chosen to participate in a mixture of team and individual sports because those are things they will be able to continue with into their adult life.

West: To continue to play sports throughout their life. To stay healthy and always understand the concept of being a team player. If they want to pursue sports at a collegiate or professional level, that will be their choice. Either way you will find me cheering on the sideline.

Turnkey Sports Poll

The following are results of the Turnkey Sports Poll taken in July. The survey covered more than 2,000 senior-level sports industry executives spanning professional and college sports.

Which of the following is the main benefit to children participating in youth sports?

Learning how to be a team member 49%
Exercising 21%
Having fun 16%
Socializing 12%
Developing motor skills 3%

Which of the following sports are you most likely to encourage your children to play/participate in? (Note: Respondents could select all that apply.)

Soccer 68%
Basketball 61%
Baseball/softball 57%
Golf 54%
Tennis 50%
Swimming 48%
Running/track and field 40%
Lacrosse 33%
Volleyball 27%
Football 19%
Ice hockey 16%
Wrestling 6%
None of these 1%

Addressing/improving which of the following elements would most increase youth sports participation rates?

Making the participation schedule less demanding 45%
Lowering the cost of participation 27%
Building more facilities for non-organized play 16%
Reducing the risk of injuries 9%
Not sure / No response 3%

Which of the following leagues/governing bodies has done the best job assisting the growth of youth participation in their respective sport?

MLS 26%
NBA 16%
MLB 13%
NFL 11%
PGA Tour 7%
USTA 5%
NHL 4%
Not sure / No response 18%

Is your favorite sport to play as a kid the same as your favorite sport to follow as an adult?

Yes 48%
No 51%
Not sure / No response 1%

Source: Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in conjunction with SportsBusiness Journal. Turnkey Intelligence specializes in research, measurement and lead generation for brands and properties. Visit www.turnkeyse.com.


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