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www.sportseventsmagazine.com December 2016 15 HOW DID WE GET HERE? It wasn't that long ago, according to Hyman, that youth sports occurred mostly in neighborhoods on recreation fields within walking distance or a short drive from where participants lived. Registration fees were minimal and the population of leagues was very diverse. "I grew up in a small town in New Jersey and the more affluent kids and the kids from the lower socioeconomic back- grounds all played in the same leagues and on the same teams," Hyman said. "It was a very healthy thing." Over time, the philosophy behind youth sports shifted to what Hyman tags as a "career path" today. While recreation leagues still exist, parents are increasingly looking for a more competitive experience for their children. The negative of this push, Hyman said, is that kids without the financial backing are often left out. The TD Ameritrade study found that 40 percent of parents whose children are involved in competitive play outside of a school program believe their children will snag a college scholarship. One-third hope their children will go to the Olympics or turn pro. Jon Butler, executive director of Pop Warner Little Scholars, said these aspira- tions are somewhat misguided, pointing to "very unrealistic expectations regarding the availability of athletic scholarship funds." For instance, he pointed out that his son plays lacrosse, and a simple quick calcu- lation of the numbers is telling. NCAA Division I men's lacrosse teams have an average roster size of 45 players but only a maximum of 12.6 scholarships to award per team. "There may be 15 to 18 kids entering in each class. No one is getting a full ride," Butler said. Hyman said that the percentage of high school kids who go on to play in college is extremely low — less than 5 percent. And the number who receive financial aid sits at only 3 percent. The reality is that colleges hand out significantly more academic money than athletic, Butler said. Research by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, shows colleges and universities hand out more than nine times more money in academic merit scholarships than athletic scholarships. " Because of our academic emphasis at Pop Warner, I tell parents, if you want to hire someone … hire a tutor," Butler said. KEEPING COSTS DOWN While sports event planners acknowledge that demand for competitive play will likely continue to drive up costs, efforts are underway to minimize the impact. "The cost of participation is certainly an issue," Pingel said. "We don't want to price anyone out of the game but it's a business and we have to be responsible." To address rising costs, USA Volleyball has made moderate adjustments to room rebates for its national championship while maintaining a consistent entry fee. "We see those increases as user taxes," Pingel said, pointing out that this move is the alternative to raising member registra- tion, which would impact everyone. "Very few members play in a championship event; most just play locally. That said, we still have to be concerned about what the increases are doing to the families of those teams." In the case of Pop Warner's Little Scholars, Butler said that the organiza- tion's model has always been unique in the market, focusing on inclusion. "Our local programs set their own registration fees, and generally, if they have gone up, it's been very modest," he said. "As long as [players] fit within our age and weight schematic in football, we don't allow any cuts. There is mandatory play; there are no tryouts and it's very inclusive." Looking ahead, Pingel said that USA Volleyball is watching to see how the re- cent NCAA move to make women's beach volleyball a collegiate scholarship sport will impact the game. "Will that change the landscape to where there are people specializing in beach game? Will beach clubs start pop- ping up?" Pingel asked. "We're trying to keep an eye on that trend to see what it does." n The Travel Sports Phenomenon: All Things In Moderation A 2016 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) points to a growing body of evidence that suggests intensive training and sports specialization can have negative physi- cal, emotional and social consequences when started too soon. For this reason, Mark Hyman, a seasoned journalist and author covering the business of sports, often speaks about the need for mod- eration as early intensity can equate to overuse injuries and burnout. "We think we are helping our chil- dren reach their potential as athletes when we start them very young and direct them toward a single sport for training," he said. "In reality, it can be quite the opposite. We are often throwing up obstacles for reaching their potential." For instance, the AAP report titled "Sports Specialization and Intensive Training in Young Adults" pointed to studies suggesting that overuse injuries account for 46 to 50 percent of all athletic injuries. In high school athletes alone, overuse injuries represented 7.7 percent of all injuries. Also, current evidence suggests that delaying sport specialization for most sports until after puberty — or 15 or 16 years of age — was suggested to minimize the risks and lead to a higher likelihood of athletic success. "It's absolutely fine for children and parents who want to have a special experience, to travel to Cooperstown or where ever it happens to be, to play in a tournament that's special in youth sports," Hyman said. "I think the risks come when the adults get caught up in this idea of youth sports being a perpetual road trip. You see kids as young as seven and eight just traveling hundreds of miles each weekend. You certainly can overdo the travel experi- ence to the detriment of the kid." n SPECIAL FEATURE: CVBs & Sports Commissions