Private vs. Public Sport Development

There’s no doubt about it, but the landscape of youth sports has clearly changed. There are pros and cons to that development, and depending on the situation I’m a bit torn by it. On one hand I’m in favor of business and the role private business plays in the economy. On the other side, I think we’ve gone too far with privatization and as a result it’s creating a system of those who can afford to play and those who can’t. There are a number of reasons why this has happened, and I think that we’re on the cusp of going one way or the other.

Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s the landscape of youth sports was still developing. You had travel teams, but it wasn’t anywhere near as prevalent as it is now. If you wanted to play you likely went to the plethora of youth sports leagues that were offered by the local parks and rec, or other government entity. The programs were affordable and thrived. It seems that somewhere along the lines that changed, partly because of lack of funding to parks and rec over time, but also with the growth of “elite” clubs and travel programs all promising to take players to the next level.

Fast forward 15 -20 years and the market of elite programs and clubs that was once small have largely cannibalized the youth sports market. I don’t fault businesses for doing things to grow their product, but in doing so a growing number of kids are either not playing sports as they get older, or aren’t even starting. In many ways they’re being priced out.

I’ve always been interested in this process, and I’ve been in and out of it throughout the majority of my life and professional career. It’s been an interesting phenomenon to watch, and while I disagree with the direction it has gone, I think in the long-term it will not last in its current format forever. I think people are getting a bit more wise to what’s happening, and I think there will be a bit of shift back to more emphasis on recreational based leagues and programming.

Don’t get me wrong, it takes a lot of time, money, and effort to put a league together, and if you’re going through the process it should be worth that time and effort. I’m seeing more and more programs pop up that are offering something different, and I believe in the end it will be beneficial.

I’ve been going through this myself as I’ve developed my instructional classes, leagues, and camps. I’m really aware of what I’m ultimately trying to do. I’ve created partnerships with my local parks and rec to offer low cost programs. It’s two fold. On one hand I want to get people engaged in the sport of Floorball, and on the other I’m hoping long-term it grows into something bigger. Right now as it sits my costs are pretty low, and I can keep it that way. It works for me and it works for the parents.

The cost of the program is below other similar sports programs or it’s priced right in line with others. I know my market and that plays a lot into how I price my programs. It’s a fine line to walk, and in the early stages of program development I think it’s important to strike that balance. I could make more money not going through the parks program, but there are a number of important parts to doing so. The main one is providing value to the parks by offering a new program, and providing parents with more options to keep their kids active.

If Floorball is to grow we need a mix of both private and public organizations getting involved. However, in doing so they can’t price it the same way they’re able to price more established programs. We need to make it affordable to get people in the door and develop the product accordingly. The price should cover costs, but shouldn’t too high. There’s always ways to get creative in this process, and if you’re a private organization think about how you can effectively bring this sport into your world in a way that helps it become sustainable and grow. If you need help with that reach out to us.