The Industry, first in a four part series
At the final tournament of the season, with the finish line in sight, the couple counted up how many games their sons had played — and they had attended — since the seasons started in the spring. The total: 167, five games more than a major league team’s calendar.
More doesn’t necessarily mean better, though. With the increased intensity comes a price — often in time and money, or in some cases, the child’s interest in the sport or even their physical well being.
According to a 2013 National Association of Sports Commissions study, the travel industry built around youth sports brings in an estimated $7 billion. Nonprofit, tax-exempt youth sports groups also pull in revenue in the billions. In 2010, the Columbus Dispatch uncovered that youth sports-related nonprofits took in at least $5 billion in revenue, according to figures reported to the IRS.
Tucked in at the end of a cul-de-sac at Waterchase Golf Course in Fort Worth is one of the most exclusive examples of high-end training for kids in the D-FW area. From the video capture bays, to an onsite trainer, a sports psychologist, and a chef, everything about the three-story Jim McLean Junior Golf Performance Academy points to a future beyond the youth ranks.
And Justin Poynter, the director of instruction at the Academy, doesn’t shy away from that goal.
“We don’t want to be a training coach,” Poynter said. “We’re trying to win gold medals.”
While 300 to 400 youth golfers receive some level of instruction throughout the year, only 24 spots in the Academy are open each year, keeping student-teacher ratios low, with at least three hours of custom one-on-one instruction per week.
And with such exclusivity comes a cost: The Academy’s fees run from $39,875 for commuters to $58,875 for residents. Nearly a third of the players at the Academy last year lived in two homes in the gated community, rented by the program.
Poynter didn’t shy away from the idea that his program was focused or intense.
“The question is, ‘Do you like winning? Do you want to be successful?’ ” he said.
Monday: The Burnout
Tuesday: The Cost
Wednesday: The Future
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